Brazil can­di­date com­mits to free press af­ter call­ing it ‘trash’

Oman Daily Observer - - WORLD -

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil’s lead­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­date vowed to de­fend free­dom of the press af­ter his tirades against the me­dia and re­ports of his sup­port­ers at­tack­ing jour­nal­ists raised fears that civil lib­er­ties might suf­fer if he is elected.

Soon af­ter de­scrib­ing the me­dia as “trash” in a Thurs­day tweet, far-right con­gress­man and for­mer army cap­tain Jair Bol­sonaro turned around and called jour­nal­ists “friends,” pledg­ing to de­fend their work.

“When they cover the facts, without po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism and par­tial­ity, the me­dia ful­fill the valu­able role of in­form­ing peo­ple,” he said on Twit­ter, adding “WE ARE AGAINST ANY TYPE OF SO­CIAL CON­TROL OF THE ME­DIA AND IN­TER­NET.”

Like US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, whose 2016 cam­paign he has em­u­lated, Bol­sonaro has de­rided crit­i­cal press cov­er­age as “fake news” and con­nected di­rectly with sup­port­ers on so­cial me­dia, where he posts video chats, retweets right-wing out­lets and sug­gests the me­dia is part of a cor­rupt sys­tem out to stop him.

In a Fri­day in­ter­view, his pres­i­den­tial ri­val, left­ist Fer­nando Had­dad, crit­i­cised Bol­sonaro’s cam­paign for “fos­ter­ing a cul­ture of vi­o­lence.”

Bol­sonaro sus­pended cam­paign events af­ter sur­viv­ing a knife at­tack dur­ing a rally last month, but still rode a wave of anger over po­lit­i­cal graft, ris­ing vi­o­lence and a weak econ­omy to win 46 per cent of first-round votes on Sun­day. Opin­ion polls show him with a dou­bledigit lead over Had­dad ahead of the Oc­to­ber 28 run-off.

In Brazil’s most bit­terly po­larised election since the end of mil­i­tary rule in 1985, Bol­sonaro’s stab­bing by a men­tally dis­turbed man has been the most prom­i­nent in a string of vi­o­lent acts hang­ing over the race.

Some in­ci­dents in­volve his sup­port­ers al­legedly at­tack­ing or threat­en­ing jour­nal­ists. Some of his com­ments have led to him fac­ing fed­eral charges of hate speech, which he has dis­missed as po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

On Thurs­day, a car trans­port­ing Had­dad was blocked by a pick-up truck in Brasília, ac­cord­ing to his com­mu­ni­ca­tion staff. The uniden­ti­fied oc­cu­pants of the ve­hi­cle shouted ep­i­thets against Had­dad, his aides said. Had­dad said a man had been iden­ti­fied in con­nec­tion with the in­ci­dent and is be­ing mon­i­tored by po­lice. Since the im­peach­ment of for­mer pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff, which Had­dad’s Work­ers Party (PT) called a me­dia-sup­ported “coup,” crowds at left­ist ral­lies have also been ac­cused of in­tim­i­dat­ing cam­era crews from ma­jor TV sta­tions.

How­ever, many re­porters say the an­i­mos­ity from Bol­sonaro sup­port­ers has been more in­tense, tar­get­ing spe­cific jour­nal­ists for so­cial me­dia at­tacks that have led to phys­i­cal con­fronta­tions.

“There is no doubt we’ve had vi­o­lent episodes and a grow­ing cli­mate of fear,” said Diego Es­costeguy, for­mer edi­torin-chief of newsweekly Epoca and critic of the PT.

— AFP

Jair Bol­sonaro (C) ges­tures flanked by his son and Rio de Janeiro’s elected Sen­a­tor Flavio Bol­sonaro (L) and the Pres­i­dent of the So­cial Lib­eral Party (PSL) Gus­tavo Be­bianno in Rio de Janeiro.

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