Watchdogs: Journalists and Censors, from AI-5 to the 1988 Constitution should throw a bucket of cold water on the romantic idea that the journalists from the Brazilian press would often use their pens to fence with the dictatorship. The thesis for the doctorate of Beatriz Kushnir, master in History from the Rio de Janeiro Federal University (UFF), defended at the Institute of Philosophy and Sciences of the State University of Campinas, Watchdogs has its scenario set in the somber period of the dictatorship in Brazil. The original reason for the work, sponsored by FAPESP, was to understand the internal logic of censorship in those years. But, half way down the road, the researcher came across a parallel path that widened her analysis.
“There was the quixotic idea that journalists, even in the post-64 period, used newspapers and a front for the resistance, but this only happened in the alternative press, not in the press at large as a whole”, Beatriz emphasizes. “Writing in the newspapers or crossing out what could not be said or printed, journalists collaborated with the authoritarian system set up in that period.” This was a doctorate that the researcher started in 1996.
From 1997 onwards, she started to rummage through the documentation in the National Archives of Rio de Janeiro and the archives in Brasilia and in the National Police Academy. She also researched the database of the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, at the Abril publishing house, and the personal files of journalists Joel Silveira and Ana Maria Machado (JB Radio). She interviewed, as well, journalists who had specifically been with the Folha da Tarde and other journalists from other periodicals.
She also interviewed film-maker Farias, a former president of Embrafilme and the director of the film Pra Frente Brasil, and 11 censors – men and women of different age groups at work between 1950 and 1986, who are retired or are still employees of the Federal Police Department (DPF). It should be pointed out that only two of the 11 censors interviewed authorized their names to be made public. Solange Hernandes was one of them. The other was Corioleano de Loyola Cabral Fagundes, who is today an evangelical preacher. He used to be the head of the Public Entertainment Censorship Department (DCDP) when the president of the day, José Sarney (1985-1990) vetoed Je Vous Salue Marie, by film-maker Jean-Luc Godard, the last film to be censored in the country, and also when the end of censorship was decreed.
To start with, Beatriz drew up a map of the censorship legislation of the republican period. Although hardly any documentation has been found on the censorship of the Press Department (DIP) in the Estado Novo (1937-1945), she tried to compare the similarities and differences between the two periods. “I tried to register the institutional ‘locus’ of the censorship agencies in the apparatus of the State, the legislative schemes contrived in the republican period and the generations of technicians in censorship of the DCDP, besides all the corporate strategy set up by this group to survive, after the end of official censorship had been decreed in 1988”, is how the researcher sums it up.
When going into the time warp chosen for her analysis, Beatriz started to find names and a few faces for the censors. It was when she began the interviews that she noticed she could widen her thesis. At this stage, she realized that the first ten censors removed to Brasilia at the time the capital was transferred there had journalism as their previous occupation, which make her widen her investigation. “There are two explanations for this; one is that, in the competitive examinations to become a technician in censorship, the only occupation that one could have, besides being a censor, was to be a journalist”, she explains. Beatriz also points out that it had been a practice in Brazil for journalists to have two jobs, one of them in a government body.
According to her, the Correio da Manhã tried to bring this practice to an end in the 60’s, but it was not successful. Writer Carlos Heitor Cony tells this clearly in his book Quase Memória (Almost Memory), about the father who was also a journalist. “That is why you can understand how they became censors. The problem is that they remained censors afterwards”, the researchers concludes. One of the journalist-censors that Beatriz points out is José Vieira Madeira. “He used to work in the Jornal do Brasil and, after he stopped being a censor, had a column in O Dia“, she says.
And so, in Watchdogs, Beatriz focuses her analysis on two scenarios and on the dialog that they set going between themselves: the journalists who swapped their copy-desks for bureaucracy and became technicians in censorship, and the career policemen who acted as journalists and collaborated with the system of repression from the copy-desks. To understand this latter group, Beatriz redrew the trajectory of the Folha da Tarde.
The researcher pays special attention to this company of the Folha da Manhã group, at two moments of the newspaper’s history: “First, the focus is on 1967, when the FT was reborn, under the direction of Miranda Jordão (who works today in O Dia) to compete with the Jornal da Tarde, of the Estado group, which had just been launched.” Beatriz points out that it was a moment when the FT’s editorial staff was full of good journalists, still on active duty – like Rose Nogueira or Tonico Ferreira, amongst several others whom she interviewed.
“Many of them were sympathizers of the left, card-carrying or militants who acted in the armed struggle, in particular in the National Liberation Alliance (ALN). But on the night in November 1969 that its leader Carlos Marighella died, the militants started to fall, many of them journalists on that editorial staff”, says Beatriz. “Finally, with AI-5, Miranda Jordão was sent away and the paper changed its profile completely”, she says. In Jordão’s place, according to her, they put Aggio (Antonio Aggio Jr., currently Senator Romeu Tuma’s press advisor), who came from the Cidade de Santos newspaper.
“For a decade and a half, the paper was under the command of policemen, and many of the journalists who worked there also occupied posts in the Department for Public Security of the State of São Paulo”, says the teacher. “Some thought that the place was more like a police station, and the paper won the sobriquet of “maior tiragem” [highest circulation], because of the number of ‘tiras’ [cops] that it employed. The Frias family only came to get its name back in the newspaper’s editorial staff in 1984. Otávio Frias Filho took on the Folha de S. Paulo, Aggio left the FT and Carlos Brickman and Adilson Laranjeira came in. The paper went through reformulation and was modernized.
In an interview for Pesquisa FAPESP, Aggio told his version of the facts. “The reformulation of the FT and the 1984 Folha Project had nothing to do with ideology, but with the market”, he noted. The journalist recalls that when he left the management of the paper, Miranda Jordão remained in the company. “It was Antonio Pimenta Neves who took his place, and, afterwards, the director was Francisco de Célio César”, he says. “It was only after that that I was called by Frias to run the FT.
It was the end of 1969, and there I stayed until 1984.” Aggio guarantees that the only policeman at work on the editorial staff was taken by him from the Cidade de Santos. “It was Carlos Antonio Guimarães Sequeira, a law student who wanted to be a journalist, and, at the same time, took the examination to be a police chief “, he explains. “He passed his exam, but as he turned out to be an excellent journalist on international affairs, I invited him to be an editor with the FT.”
During her investigation, Beatriz got to know Ivan Seixas, a journalist who was a militant of the armed left, and who, along with other former militants, accuses the FT of that dark period of legalizing deaths under torture. Seixas told how, in April 1971, when he was 16 years old, he had been arrested, with his father, after the death of businessman Henning Albert Boilesen, one of the millionaires who financed Operation Bandeirantes (Oban). The murder was attributed to the Tiradentes Revolutionary Movement (MRT), an organization with which they were both connected. In prison, father and son were tortured.
At a certain point, according to the statement of the journalist, the policemen went for a walk with the young man in the city. “On the radio, he heard that the policemen had received an order to kill him; they stopped at a coffee shop to have a cup of coffee, and Ivan saw a newsstand out of the window, where there was a headline announcing that his father had been killed on arrest”, he says. “But it was not true, because when Ivan and the policemen went back to the prison, he saw his father still alive and still being tortured. When analyzing this and other reports from those times, I realized that this was a reflection of a good deal of the coverage of these cases, with the outcome that was expedient at the time.
That is to say, one realizes that they were not merely imposed texts, but there was a journalistic story with an interest in publicizing an image of armed struggle as being by subversives and terrorists”, she says. “That is why, after this case, I tried to go into the history of the newspaper in greater depth, to try and understand what it was, and who was there on the editorial staff.” According to her, this study touches, above all, on the question of ethics, but it is centralized in particular on the practices of official journalism, on the rules to be followed, and especially at the moments of breakdown.
“In this regard, it is important not to forget that the press sells a service, when one buys the printed word, one acquires information, hence the veracity of a report is negotiated”, she observes. “Accordingly, what happened at the Folha da Tarde from 1969 to 1984 is something very pertinent to think of the rules that ‘govern’ this ‘business’ and of the collaborationism of the press at large with the system.”
Summing up the results of her work, which has yielded over 400 pages, Beatriz considers that, by focussing her study on the press, she has found ways of reflecting the relationship between journalists and historians, in the investigation and making of present day history. “We ought to consider that, 30 years having passed by, journalists retell their history putting it the way it interests them”, says the researcher”, says the researcher. The surprises and a probable theme for polemics do not stop there. “What surprised me most was to detect self-censoring at the copy-desks, even before this period and after 1988; the journalist, in the knowledge of the vehicle with which he works, selects what he can or cannot speak”, she adds.
To cure amnesia of censorship in the press
The dark mantle of censorship was thrown twice over the Brazilian press: from 1937 to 1945, and from 1964 to 1978. A long time has gone by, without the subject being treated as it deserves, but, slowly, books and academic theses are exploring its meanders and throwing light on its main personages. In the preface to Political Censorship in the Brazilian Press, 1968-1978 (Global Editora, 1980), by journalist Paolo Marconi, one of the first books to wallow deep in this mud, writer Antonio Callado picks out Memories of Prison, by Graciliano Ramos, as the only document on the censure of 1937. “But, little by little, it occupies the whole field of repression (of the post-64 era)”, writes Callado.
In 1969, Marconi was still studying journalism and working as an editor. “I used to see mysterious little notes circulating amongst the editorial staff, with certain prohibitions on publishing the most varied bits of information”, he testifies. “Faced by this violence that was practiced on a daily basis (by security and intelligence organs), the censorship of the bosses would be relegated to the background.”
Returning from France in 1975, he researched the subject, interviewed journalists, set off in search of the ideological sources of censorship, and documented everything in his book. After 19 years had passed by, it was Marconi himself who wrote about the book Censorship, the Press, the Authoritarian State (1968-1978), by Maria Aparecida de Aquino (Edusc, 1999). “Let this book be a stimulus to others, be they academics or not. It is the only way of throwing light on the shadows, past and present”, he said. The thesis: Watchdogs: Journalists and Censors, from AI-5 to the 1988 Constitution, which historian Beatriz Kushnir has just concluded, fills in this gap a little more. And she warns that she still had material on the subject left over.
Guard dogs: journalists and censors, from AI-5 to the 1988 constitution (nº 03/13569-0); Modality Thesis for a doctorate; Coordinator Maria Stella Martins Bresciani – Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences of Unicamp; Investment R$116,553.00