I hate the Daily Mail. I always have and this is one of the reasons I was so happy last week when it seemed like everyone had turned on them for some despicable reporting.
They published an article about the dead father of the leader of the opposition under the headline ‘The Man WHo Hated Britain’. The man, Ralph Miliband, was a Jewish refugee from the Nazis who escaped Belgium and arrive in the UK. As soon as he was old enough he joined the Royal Navy to fight against the Nazis and after the war decided to stay in Britain. He became a semi-famous academic and gave classes at the London School of Economics.
So what did he do to earn the wrath of the Daily Mail? To be fair it isn’t that hard to the object of scorn from such a publication, but his specific crime was to be a Marxist and write about Marxism and how it could improve the lot of the working British person. He called for the reform or destruction of large swathes of the British establishment from the police and media all the way through to the royal family and the government.
And so a man who died in 1994 became the subject of a vicious attack.
The Daily Heil
But the Daily Mail has previous for this kind of thing. Unless you are a white, heterosexual male with all four grandparents born in the UK, support the Tories or UKIP, Christian, married with a couple of kids, hate Europe, in fact hate everything that is non-English, and never get sick because that would mean you are shirking your responsibilities, the Daily Mail will hate you.
And they don’t just hate people. Everything will either kill you are cure you. The classic example is that practically every day of the week they will run an article claiming that something will either give you cancer or cure you of it.
Sensationalist and prudish at the same time adds up to a successful formula on the internet, Somehow they have become the most visited English language newspaper site in the world with their mix of Victorian values and the sidebar of shame. This sidebar is down the right hand side of the screen and shows celebrities (usually women) who have been shot showing a little bit too much cleavage, not looking their best, or out for a jog with some sort of disparaging remark.
But of course the Daily Mail loves Britain. In fact it loves Britain so much that just before World War II it supported the fascist movement in the UK and sidled up to Josef Goebbels.
To sum up my views of the Daily Mail perhaps it is better to watch Mehdi Hassan on a recent Question Time programme.
One of my favourite ever videos on youtube. If it doesn’t work, just click on the youtube symbol in the bottom right.
And, to be fair, although the Daily Mail is probably the worst of the lot I have contempt for all of the tabloid newspapers in the UK. They do some good work when they get the scent of political corruption, but they are usually the lowest of the low and I am so glad that the teenage dream I had of becoming a journalist didn’t work out.
Newspapers In Brazil
This kind of thing could never happen in Brazil. For starters, it is possible to libel the dead. In this case it would mean the family of Ralph Miliband taking the Mail to court and more than likely winning substantial damages.
It is also possible to libel people who are actually guilty of what you are accusing them of. In certain cases, if a judge, for example, had been found guilty of corruption and you wrote an article calling him corrupt, the judge could sue for defamation of character and actually win.
A blogger in the state I live in, Paraná, was recently ordered to take down an article he wrote about the local doctor’s union. I am not sure exactly what he wrote because the offending article seems to have been taken down. From what I can infer, though, he was accusing the union of acting in a corporatist manner, for which they have claimed defamation of character and are demanding R$15, 000 (about $7, 000).
Also in Paraná, the biggest newspaper in the state, Gazeta do Povo, was two months ago ordered to stop reporting on investigations into the conduct of the head judge of the State Supreme Court, Clayton Camargo. The investigations, carried out by the National Council of Justice, concerned influence peddling and exchanging sentences for money. The reason for the finding? The reports were apparently ‘degrading and personal’.
Well I should hope so, too.
Clayton Camargo has since ‘retired’ but I won’t be holding my breath for a definitive answer on his guilt.
So what should you do if you want to write about the corrupt state of the system? One thing you could do in most countries would be to write a fictional satire of the situation, changing all the names so that everyone knows what you are talking about, but nobody is actually included in the story. That wouldn’t work in Brazil. Last year a journalist was sentenced to 7 months and 1 week in jail for doing exactly that on his blog.
These and other laws mean that Brazil was placed 108th out of 179 countries in terms of freedom of the press by Reporters Without Borders. This puts them alongside countries such as Lebanon, Albania, Kyrgyzstan, UAE, Israel and Qatar.
It’s not just the laws that harm journalism in Brazil. There are a number of attacks on journalists and bloggers and these attacks are rarely properly investigated. The situation is so poor that the Committee to Protect Journalists recently ranked Brazil as the country with the 10th worst record for investigating crimes against journalists country to be a journalist in.
You might think that it is only out in the countryside or when journalists are taking on big vested interests that crimes such as these happen. Think again. It might not be a good idea to even criticise your local football club.
The result is a lot of self censorship with bloggers and newspapers refusing to even publish something because of the possible ramifications.
Don’t Ban the Daily Mail
So while I loathe the Daily Mail and all it stands for, the last thing I want to do is ban it or introduce laws which would stop it from publishing whatever it sees fit. I don’t want a situation such as we have in Brazil where journalists are killed because they write about the wrong people, or you are prevented from reporting on corrupt public officials. All I want is for people to stop buying the paper and visiting their site.