Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lessons the Brazilian Media Still Haven't Learned

It's been kind of a down-time in Brazil lately, which would explain the relative absence of my Brazil posts since the election. However, all that changed yesterday, when, in the city of Nova Iguaçu (just north of Rio de Janeiro), a man took hostages on a bus, upset over his wife's separation. After 10 hours, the police stormed the bus, and nobody was hurt.

The events of yesterday eerily mirrored in some ways events in 2000 in Rio de Janeiro proper. However, as I've mentioned before, and as is chronicled excellently in the film Bus 174 (which you all really should see - it's available in the States), things didn't turn out as well in the 2000 incident as they did yesterday. Ultimately, one girl got killed (no one has been clear on whether it was a policeman's bullet, or whether it was Sandro do Nascimento's (the hostage-taker) gun that killed the young woman. Not coincidentally, in large part because of his skin color, the mob of Brazilians around the area wanted to lynch him, and the police quickly spirited him away to the police car, where they proceeded to suffocate him on live TV as millions of Brazilians throughout the country watched. As the film does a great job of showing, one of the reasons things got so awful was because there was no police crowd-control, and the media was all over the place, greatly interfering with the efforts to find a peaceful solution.

Yesterday was somewhat better, for the police were in greater control. Also, whereas Sandro's message was political (he was a survivor of street children whom Rio police brutally murdered, without cause, in the early 1990s), the hostage-taker yesterday was upset over personal reasons. Nonetheless, it seems one lesson hasn't been learned. When I saw the news online, I wondered if I could turn on the TV and actually see the events unfolding, but expected that I couldn't. Surely, Brazil's media had learned its lesson, right? They wouldn't again have TV crews live on site to report the events and perhaps muddle everything again, right?

Wrong. Apparently, O Globo, the largest media conglomerate in Brazil, was there the whole time, broadcasting everything live, and posing a great risk to the hostages, the gunman, and all involved, interfering and providing a means of fame that the gunman shouldn't have had, just as in 2000. Yet there they were, threatening to be involved in a catastrophe, just as in 2000, all in the name of money (for many were indeed watching the events here).

Like I said, ultimately things turned out fine. The man was peaceably apprehended, and nobody was harmed. Nonetheless, when will the Brazilian media, and O Globo in particular, learn that some events must be and can be reported to the people without your physical presence in places and times of extreme peril, to the hostages, the journalists, and the police themselves?