Back in 2009 the Brazilian supreme court ruled that a requirement of a journalism degree was necessary to be a journalist was unconstitutional. The court argued that such a rule — one implemented by the former dictatorship that ended in 1985 — violated the constitutional protections of free speech and freedom of the press.
All in all an intelligent decision.
Seems, however, many in Brazil do not agree.
The Brazilian senate approved Nov. 30 — in a 65-7 vote — a proposed change to the constitution that would require journalists to have an advanced degree.
The proposal still needs a second vote in the Senate. If it passes then — as expected — it will go to the House for its approval.
One senator called the move the first step in controlling the media.
Another said, “What was done here was to circumvent the Supreme Court’s. There is here no public interest in the approval of [the change].” He added that the work of a journalist “is an instrument linked to freedom of expression.”
The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas held a series of online discussions debating the requirement.
- Pro/Con: Brazilian journalism professors debate degree Requirements
- Pro/Con: Brazilian students debate journalism degree requirements
So far, unheard since the vote is the voice of the president, Dilma Rousseff, who has been a vocal supporter of free and independent media.
To be sure, she has spoken out against censorship and control of the media by the government — often putting her at odds with her party and her mentor, former president Lula da Silva. One of her favorite phrases is “Better the noise of freedom than the silence of dictatorship.”
Just prior to leaving office, Lula convened a meeting of “social” organizations to create a committee to “guide” the media. All of the news organizations in the country opposed the action. Once Lula left office and Dilma took over the presidency the idea of a guiding committee run by the executive office faded.
The move to impose academic requirements on journalists is seen — by some in the media — as another way to control or “guide” the news organizations.
In particular, many in the ruling coalition are upset with the aggressive nature of the Brazilian media in digging up corrupt practices by various government ministers.
Since taking office in January of this year, Dilma has discharged or accepted the resignations of four ministers and other top government leaders due to accusations of corruption. In each case the alleged illegal acts were revealed by the media.
Dilma has sided with the media’s right to investigate and report on these cases, much to the chagrin of her party and Lula. Now she needs to get control of her party in the Congress to prevent legislation that will return Brazil’s media laws to the days of the dictatorship.