Brazil’s far-right president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, has declared a war on “fake news” media, Reuters reports.
In a TV interview, Bolsonaro directly threatened Brazil’s Folha de S.Paulo, a famous Brazilian daily newspaper, stating the following.
“That newspaper is done. As far as I’m concerned with government advertising — press that acts like that, lying shamelessly, won’t have any support from the federal government.”
Reuters notes that even though public funds represent merely a fraction of revenue at most Brazilian media organizations, Jair Bolsonaro’s threats are echoing across newsrooms all over the country, as journalist fear for their safety.
Numerous veteran reporters working for some of Brazil’s most significant publications have publicly promised to dial back their criticism of the new president, fearing violence from his supporters and backlash from the far-right government.
In the context of his previous statements, Jair Bolsonaro’s threats to free press do not come as a surprise. They are, in fact, mild in comparison.
As previously detailed by the Inquisitr, Jair Bolsonaro is a proponent of military dictatorship and torture, known for publicly expressing his racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and sexist views.
“I am in favor of a dictatorship, a regime of exception,” he once infamously said.
The far-right populist may be promising a war on “fake news” now, but his own campaign has been accused of spreading misinformation before and during the election.
Unlike his Western counterparts, Bolsonaro did not have to rely on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
As the Guardian reported, bankrolled by a wealthy group of Brazilian businessmen, the president-elect’s allies amplified the aspiring dictator’s violent rhetoric using WhatsApp. WhatsApp is also used as a news source in Brazil, and not just as a chat application.
“The practice is illegal since it constitutes undeclared campaign donations by companies, something outlawed by electoral legislation,” Brazilian media pleaded, but those days appear to be coming to an end.
Reuters reports that Brazilian press watchdogs are witnessing an almost unprecedented escalation of threats against journalists, with most of the attacks coming from Bolsonaro supporters — half of the attacks were physical in nature.
In spite of all this, Folha de S.Paulo’s subscriptions are going up, according to the paper’s editor.
Dissatisfied with how Bolsonaro is treating the press, Brazilians are spontaneously subscribing to Folha.
“It wasn’t something we asked for. It wasn’t a campaign organized by the newspaper. They basically said: ‘Folha does critical journalism. Bolsonaro is attacking Folha. I’m going to subscribe to Folha out of solidarity,'” the editor explained.