The side of the press in the elections

Image: Ömer Aydın


Good journalism does not accommodate itself at an intermediate point between democracy and the usurpers of the word freedom

About three weeks ago, the British magazine The Economist, stated that “another term for the populist Jair Bolsonaro would be bad for Brazil and for the world”. It is about taking a position: between the re-election of the current president and a return to power by Lula, the most influential magazine in the world, considered a kind of beacon of liberalism, points to the second alternative, since “ only Lula can prevent it” (the incumbent’s second term).

To support your choice, the Economist lists numerous reasons, from the current president's mania for proclaiming his sexual virility from the top of platforms to his failure to stop the destruction of the Amazon. "It undermines institutions, from the Supreme Court to democracy itself." As is well known, the weekly has an ostensible antipathy towards left-wing prescriptions. Therefore, by indicating a discreet preference for Lula, he takes care to suggest that the PT move towards the center.

Is it legitimate for a press body to convey its preference for a candidacy? In electoral disputes, especially in the toughest ones, should newsrooms recommend a choice? It is correct that a newspaper – and the Economist often refers to itself as a "newspaper”, not like “magazine” – openly assume your predilection for one hand, to the detriment of the other?

There are controversies. It is known that the The New York Times, in his editorials, has the habit of supporting the Democratic party. Other vehicles, on the other hand, run away from it with all their strength and never express a preference for this or that subtitle. They think that if they did, they would lose independence.

Supporters of the current that rejects any alignment of newsrooms with electoral disputes, there are press professionals in Brazil who, not even in secret, not even in their hearts, cherish any partisan propensity. On election days, they go to the polls (as this is mandatory in the country), but, arriving at the impenetrable booth, they do not support either side or the other – they annul the vote. Renouncing their status as voters, they imagine exercising their role as journalists with greater impartiality.

It is not difficult to see that there are good ethical justifications for both attitudes. A Economist does not go wrong in stating that “another mandate for the populist Jair Bolsonaro would be bad for Brazil and for the world”. From his point of view, this is honest behavior, based on logical findings and arguments. Likewise, those who prefer not to indicate who each person should vote for or not vote for are also correct. The fundamental thing is that, in one line or another, the journal plays fair with its public, explaining its motives and the foundations of its way of proceeding.

in favor of Economist, let us remember that, in its pages, factual coverage is not separated from the defense of a point of view. In a conventional newspaper, the editorials (which express the opinion of the house) and the reports (which report the facts) occupy clearly different areas: one thing is what happened yesterday; another, quite separate, is what the newspaper thinks about what happened yesterday. At Economist is different: all texts, to some degree, are admittedly informative (reports) and opinionated (editorials). Therefore, the explanation of evaluative choices is, more than natural, many times inevitable.

By the metrics ofnewspaper” Londoner, in situations where “populists” dispute power with leaders who do not “undermine institutions” and “democracy”, what should be done is to close ranks against the former. There are no possible doubts. At that point, the choice of Economist, with all that is natural and inevitable, serves as a paradigm. His dispassionate diagnosis is far from a campaign outburst, but an act of reason.

Regardless of the style of each essay, they all have something to learn from this value judgment. When the impasse occurs between autocracy and democracy, the free press cannot flirt with authoritarianism, unless it wants to incur an incongruity – or suicide of thought.

This reflection imposes itself on the entire world press and, more dramatically, on the Brazilian press. The subject who now seeks to be re-elected can no longer be said to be a defender of the institutions that support the Democratic State of Law. It is unnecessary, as well as idle, to list all the evidence for this indisputable fact. We all know what was already obvious in 2018 and that now, in 2022, a crater is as continental as it is shameful. And then? Which side should the press be on? Or, better, what is the natural and legitimate side of the free press? Which side has she always been on? Isn't the time to say it with due emphasis?

There is no journalistic equidistance between dictatorship and freedom. Good journalism does not accommodate itself at an intermediate point between democracy and the usurpers of the word freedom, who claim for themselves the “freedom” to destroy the freedom of others. Amidst the exasperating tension we are facing, it would be healthy for this to be public.

*Eugenio Bucci He is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of The superindustry of the imaginary (authentic).

Originally published in the newspaper The State of S. Paul.

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