Magazine may pose last hurdle for Brazil’s Rousseff

* Influential magazine likely to try to derail Rousseff

* Lula voices frustration at perceived media bias

* Critics say media has heavy bias against the left

By Stuart Grudgings

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 22 (BestGrowthStock) – It has become a Saturday
morning ritual of Brazil’s presidential race — party officials
and journalists alike rush to the nearest newsstand, eager to
see if this will be the edition of Veja magazine that brings
down ruling party front-runner Dilma Rousseff.

The muckraking prowess of Brazil’s most-read magazine,
which has already unearthed two major corruption scandals that
damaged Rousseff, is likely the biggest remaining wild card in
the race now that the ruling party candidate is pulling away in
polls with a little over a week to go. [ID:nN22133279]

Some political commentators describe the race in terms of
how many covers Veja has left — two.

The publication’s relentless pursuit of Rousseff is
indicative of what some say is a deeper bias in Brazilian media
against the ruling Workers’ Party and Luiz Inacio Lula da
Silva, Brazil’s first working-class president.

While the left-leaning Lula has the approval of a lofty 80
percent of Brazilians and is mostly lauded abroad as the former
shoeshine boy who lifted millions out of poverty as president,
his relations with Brazil’s media have become strained.

“There is a magazine whose name I don’t remember. It
distills hate and lies,” Lula told the crowd at a rally in
September in one of many campaign attacks on the media,
accusing some outlets of acting like a political parties.

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Full coverage of election: [ID:nBRAZIL]

Election Top News page: http://link.reuters.com/dux43p

Graphic on opinion polls: http://r.reuters.com/vet88p

Special report on Rousseff: http://link.reuters.com/fab25p

Political risks in Brazil: [ID:nRISKBR]

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Workers’ Party officials acknowledge that Lula’s anger with
the media may be counterproductive and even have cost his
former chief of staff Rousseff votes in the first round. Polls
show her likely to win the runoff vote on Oct. 31 after a
recent surge by opposition candidate Jose Serra lost steam.

While Veja has an agenda, its reporting has been accurate,
resulting in the resignation of Rousseff’s former aide from her
post as Lula’s chief of staff over a kickback scheme.

The big media groups say Lula’s criticisms have gone too
far and cite their constitutional right to freedom of
expression. Their long-standing fears that the Workers’ Party
wants to curtail press freedom were fueled early in the
campaign when a party manifesto — which was hastily withdrawn
— outlined proposals for more state control of the media.

“I think this tension between the media and power is normal
— just look at President Obama and Fox News,” said Ricardo
Pedreira, head of the National Association of Newspapers.

HISTORY OF BIAS

Still, some believe there is compelling evidence to justify
Lula’s irritation and that a negative media could become a
problem for Rousseff as well if she succeeds him.

“It is unquestionable,” said James Green, a Latin America
professor at Brown University who has followed the campaign.
“An event will take place and it will be spun in a way that is
clearly designed to favor Serra’s candidacy and diminish
Dilma’s candidacy.”

He said the parallel with U.S. President Obama and Fox News
didn’t hold because in Brazil, unlike in the United States,
there are no major left-leaning newspapers or television
networks to balance the coverage.

Lula, who rose from poverty in Brazil’s northeast, is
systematically portrayed as “ignorant, illiterate, rude and
lazy,” said Bernardo Kucinsky, a spokesman for Lula in his
first term and subsequently a journalism professor.

“Lately, journalists recognized his political skill and
dropped the more insulting language but continue to portray him
as a man uneducated and therefore unfit for the presidency.”

Kucinsky said Rousseff’s middle-class background would
spare her from such personal attacks, but not from broader
ideological bias. “The aim of the elite is to impede another
eight years of ‘this kind of government’,” he said.

Lula has complained that “9 or 10 families” control the
country’s media industry.

Brazil’s dominant media group Globo infamously showed an
edited version of the final televised debate in Lula’s
unsuccessful 1989 presidential campaign that highlighted his
worst moments.

The television station is more neutral in its coverage now,
although its perceived harsh treatment of Rousseff in an
interview in August earned Lula’s scorn. The group’s flagship
newspaper O Globo has a clear leaning against Rousseff.
(Edited by Kieran Murray)

Magazine may pose last hurdle for Brazil’s Rousseff