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The seven lies on the cover of Época about Lula

May 7, 2015 6:01 PM

Época magazine, in a note signed by its chief editor, Diego Escosteguy, on Friday (May 1), reaffirmed that what had been written in the news story “Lula, the operator” was correct and true. As its editor’s note reiterates the mistakes committed by the magazine, we point here the seven main, among many other, lies in the Época story.

First lie – Saying that Lula is being investigated by federal Public Ministry prosecutors

Época states that federal Public Ministry prosecutors have opened “an investigation” in which former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was "formally suspected" of two felonies. Época does not cite any sources, or the name of the prosecutor in charge of the procedure.

Anticorruption enforcement agency Núcleo de Combate à Corrupção, linked to the Federal District’s federal prosecution office, has not opened any sort of investigation about the activities of former President Lula. Newspaper O Globo, of the same publishing group, heard in that regard prosecutor Mirella Aguiar about the process thus far and she clarified the matter: there is a “preliminary procedure”, derived from an inquiry by a single prosecutor, a “notice of fact”, which might develop into an investigation or inquiry, or may simply be dismissed.

The same distinction was made by newspaper The New York Times and news agency Bloomberg. The New York Times called it a "preliminary step", not an investigation.

This is not a detail and, for those who value factual accuracy, it does make a difference from the legal and journalistic point of view.

By only publishing partially the heading of a federal prosecution agency’s document, without mentioning the names of prosecutor Anselmo Lopes, who started the initiative, and of prosecutor Mirella, who carried on with the procedure by virtue of her office, and without showing what the procedure is actually about, Época seeks to deliberately mislead its readers.

Second lie – Lula as an alleged lobbyist

In the beginning of the story the magazine recalls a fact: Lula left power in January 2011 with high ratings and, since then, has not held any public office. According to the magazine, Lula would be lobbying to favor “his clients”. It must be made clear that, just as we answered to the magazine, the former president is a speaker, not a lobbyist or consultant.

Magazine Época placed all the answers given by the people and organizations mentioned in its illations at the end of the story, which are not available on the Internet. Hence, it is worth stressing an excerpt of the answer sent by Instituto Lula:

"In the case of professional activities, talks organized by national and foreign companies, the former president is paid, just like other former presidents who give talks. The former president has already given talks to national and foreign companies from a wide array of industries - technology, financial, auto parts, consumption, communications – and from, among many others, such countries as the United States, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea, Argentina, Spain and Italy. As is customary, organizing parties are responsible for travel and accommodation costs. The former president gives speeches and does not render consulting or any other kind of services."

Journalists Thiago Bronzatto and Felipe Coutinho, who sign the text, call Lula a "lobbyist-in-chief".  The expression, besides being defamatory, does not reflect the truth, and is revealing of the prejudice and ignorance of the Época journalists in relation to the role of a former president in advancing the interests of his or her country.

What Lula did, in the Presidency and out of it, was to promote Brazil and its companies. No other president in the history of this country has led so many delegations of businesspeople abroad in an effort to internationalize our companies and increase our exports.

Third lie – Lula’s travels

The “report” by Época has no factual underpinning. The magazine states that, over the last four years, Lula has constantly traveled to "take care of his businesses”. And it continues with, “The destinations were basically the same - from Cuba to Ghana, passing by Angola and the Dominican Republic." 

Let us make this very clear: the former president has no businesses abroad. And, in saying that “most of Lula’s wanderings were paid for by construction company Odebrecht”, the magazine is lying once again. It is not true that most of the former president’s trips were paid for by Odebrecht. We repeat an excerpt from the note sent to the magazine: “The former president has given speeches to national and foreign companies from a wide array of industries - technology, financial, auto parts, consumption, communications and from, among many others, such countries as the United States, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea, Argentina, Spain, and Italy. As is customary, organizing parties are responsible for travel and accommodation costs.”

Even without any obligation of doing so, the former president’s trips are documented on the Instituto Lula website and his trips abroad were informed to the press.

Once again, differently from what the magazine reports, after he left the Presidency, Lula traveled to many countries, the most visited of which was the United States of America (6 trips), where, among other activities, he was awarded the World Food Prize, in October 2011, for his efforts to fight hunger and also awarded by the International Crisis Group, in April 2013, for having propelled Brazil into a new economic and political era.

In the USA he met twice with former President Bill Clinton – who also has his own institute and also gives talks. 

Two countries are tied in second as most visited by Lula after his presidency: Mexico and Spain (five visits each country). In Mexico, besides delivering talks to local companies, Lula was awarded the Amalia Solórzano prize, in October 2011, and launched together with President Peña Nieto, upon invitation of the Mexican government, a program against hunger inspired in the Brazilian experience

In Spain, Lula was awarded the City of Cadiz prize,  the Catalonia International Prize, and a degree of Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Salamanca.

Those readers who may occasionally trust Época for their only source of information not only were not informed of those awards, but were also misinformed about the activities of the former president abroad.

Concerning the countries mentioned by the magazine, Lula has, since he left the presidential office, been three times to Cuba, twice to Angola, and only once to Ghana and the Dominican Republic, the most mentioned countries in the article.

The magazine states that Lula’s activities as former president are morally “questionable”. In the first place, as demonstrated above, the magazine is misinformed or misinforming about such activities (probably both). For example, does the magazine believe it morally questionable to organize, in Ethiopia, a Forum for the Eradication of Hunger in Africa, in partnership with the FAO and the African Union? This event was not reported by Época. Nor was it reported by VejaYet, it was reported by British newspaper The Guardian (link in English). 

Or in Angola, a country mentioned by Época, does the magazine find it morally questionable to hold a big conference for more than one thousand representatives from the government, Congress, political parties and NGOs, in addition to Angolan scholars and journalists, gathered to listen about Angola’s and Brazil’s public policies to alleviate poverty  and foster economic development?

Or in Ghana to take part in an event organized by the UN, crowded and covered by the local media, once again on the fight against hunger? 

Paraphrasing the magazine, morally, the journalism done by Época, which lies to its readers from its very cover, is questionable. But is there, in light of the Brazilian laws, any possibility that these lies may be cause of action for a lawsuit?

Fourth lie – About the visit by Luiz Dulci to the Dominican Republic

Época builds crazy theories not only about the former president’s trips, but also questions and makes inferences about the visit of former minister and [current] director of Instituto Lula, Luiz Dulci, to the Dominican Republic in November 2014. The magazine was informed, and published, that the former minister traveled to that country to give a conference, but not that it was about Brazilian social policies. He gave interviews to the local press and was invited by President Medina to talk about the Brazilian social policies, of which the Dominican President is an admirer. The magazine only reported as its “version” that Dulci had been invited by that country’s Senate. All the invitation and travel documents are available to anyone willing to consult them – something the magazine did not do before it was surprised by the interest abroad in the achievements of the Lula administration.

Fifth lie – The criminalizing of Brazil’s diplomatic activity in Ghana

Época provides as evidence “consistent with a pattern”, a diplomatic communiqué released by the Brazilian embassy in that country, sent on 30 March 2012, one year before Lula visited Ghana. Lula was in Ghana only one year after such communiqué, in March 2013. It is worth reminding Época‘s “investigative” journalists that, in March 2012, Lula was recovering from a throat cancer treatment that had come to an end the previous month. 

As to the telegram by Irene Gala, ambassador of Brazil to Ghana, the reply by the Itamaraty placed at the end of the text written by Época, cunningly far from the illation against the diplomat, is crystal clear about there not being any irregularity in it, “The Itamaraty has, among its duties, to act abroad in favor of Brazilian companies. Accordingly, taking measures to accomplish an investment does not constitute an irregularity.”

It is regrettable that the level of partiality of certain publications has come to the point of trying to defame career civil servants for simply doing what is part of their professional duties. It would be like criticizing a Brazilian embassy for giving support to a journalist working for Época, a private company, while said journalist was visiting a given country.

Sixth lie – Criminalizing the funding of Brazil’s services exports

The magazine criminalizes and takes a political/partisan approach with regard to the issue of the funding by [development bank] BNDES of Brazilian services exporting companies. It is important to notice that this funding began before 2003, that is, before former President Lula’s administration. 

On this theme, the BNDES clarified its position in a communiqué, as also did Odebrecht . The issue was analyzed in articles by Marcelo Zero and Luís Nassif, who underscored that Época Negócios,  a sister publication of Época, extolled the internationalization of Brazilian companies in October 2014.

Seventh and biggest lie – Época’s “journalistic method”

Top scholarships in the United States paid by conservative institutes are worthless if journalism is done hastily and unwillingly, with lies and partiality. 

This is not the first time that Instituto Lula, or other people and organizations, has contact with the “Época” method of journalism (which is not exclusive to this magazine). Broadly, the method consists of creating narratives associating unrelated and alleged facts, or parts of facts, that are pasted by the journalists, and building theories without checking with the sources if reality differs from their fantasy.

A few hours before the magazine closed, when, by journalistic production deadlines, the story has most likely already been assigned its place in the magazine, the cover has been chosen, and the infographics are ready, the reporter gets in touch, by email, with the people mentioned in the article, in general, without actually saying what the story was about (Época did not ask about or mention the initiative by the Public Ministry). There is no real interest in ascertaining if the, overall, very serious accusations are consistent and justify all the space given to the text’s subject or focus.

Even if the journalist’s thesis could not be proven, the article will not be thoroughly reexamined and will get published.  At “best”, the answers given by the people and organizations involved will be placed at the end of the story, yet this part will not be available online (and most often is not carefully examined by journalists with other news companies providing the “repercussion” of the fact). It is done like that because, first, the magazine would have no other story with which to replace it and, second, because this could affect the political impact, as well as the repercussion, on other print media and on social media. 

That was exactly what Época did. It got in touch with Instituto Lula, from Brasília, three hours before the magazine closed. There were two options: speak on the phone or by email. The president of Instituto Lula, Paulo Okamotto, in order to make it possible to record the questions by and answers to the magazine, opted for answering by email, regretting that there was no possibility of clarifying the magazine’s doubts personally .

It is worth noting that Época either did not listen to or failed to record the other side of all those mentioned in the story. It quotes and publishes photos of two foreign heads of state, John Dramani Mahama, from Ghana, and Danilo Medina, from the Dominican Republic, both democratically elected and representatives of their respective countries. And yet it failed to listen to them, or to their embassies in Brazil. 

This is so much more absurd because, in theory, magazine Época should comply with the “Editorial Principles of the Globo Group” , of which it is part, and which were announced to millions of Brazilians on its [Globo’s] nationwide news program Jornal Nacional.  

As the magazine seems not to respect journalism, diplomats, Dominican or Ghanaian heads of state, or Brazilian former ministers and former heads of state, it is wise to take heed of the recommendation by an American, Joseph Pulitzer, regarding the social damages of poor journalistic practice. “A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself.”