Drifting

Drifting

It seems taken from Donald Trump's playbook. During his first year in office as Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro has resorted primarily to social media bypassing journalists and to vicious attacks on journalism. According to a study, Bolsonaro made statements aiming at undermining the credibility of media and journalists at an average of one per each three days. His tone ranges from demagoguery to insult. Journalists surely are not exempted from responsibility for the current media environment mired in hyperpolarization and need to do some soul searching to find a way forward. However it is up to the citizens to assess the media credibility. In fact, attacking journalism is hitting democracy and rule of law. The "fake news media" label so widely used by Trump, Bolsonaro, Duterte and an increasingly number of politicians around the world is quite often a stratagem to conceal the very fact that sound journalism speaks the truth to power and that "annoys" government officials.

Press freedom is solid under the premise of a suitable social, economic and institutional environment, which entails protection by authorities instead of politicians and government officials encouraging citizens to repudiate the media,

At the same time, a stricter regulatory environment putting pressure on freedom of expression - and consequently press freedom - is looming over countries and jurisdictions globally. New laws criminalizing fake news, such as the recent developments in Singapore, end up compressing press freedom especially in places where rule by law trumps rule of law in certain matters.

Fortunately in Macau we do not have leaders and politicians of the likes of Bolsonaro, Trump or Duterte and their style of doing politics in this respect is nowhere to be found here. However one should not turn a blind eye to the environment that is taking shape in the public sphere and is eroding fundamental rights. We are before a crossroads which results from external factors (from Hong Kong and mainland China), a wave of security-oriented acts, seemingly disproportionate, the "exceptional" and arbitrary situations that occurred last month, and a political discourse and court decisions that hint at new "red lines". In face of this, the local civil society should be aware of the challenges lying ahead.

Fundamental rights and duties are harmonized, protected, upheld and exercized on a daily basis. We must avoid sleepwalking into an authoritarian road.

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