The Listening Post

Brazil’s Petrobras scandal: Dilma Rousseff’s Watergate?

We look at the media coverage of the political crisis in Brazil; plus, the friends and foes of South Africa’s president.

A few years ago, Brazil enjoyed VIP treatment in news narratives: it was the rising star on the global stage, the B in BRICS, and the world’s new economic powerhouse.

Fast-forward to today and it’s a completely different story as a political scandal threatens to bring down the country’s government.

In the past week, millions of people have taken to the streets demanding the removal and impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva. 

In a two-year investigation called Operacao Lava Jato, or Operation Car Wash, prosecutors have uncovered what they say is a billion-dollar corruption scandal at the mammoth oil corporation Petrobras which dates back to Rousseff’s time as chairwoman.

With the scandal touching many people in Rousseff’s inner circle, and growing anger following the release of tapped phone calls between Lula and Rousseff, her left-leaning Workers’ Party has complained that Brazil’s mainstream media – monopolised by right-wing conglomerates – is using the scandal as a means to pursue political objectives.

Talking us through the Rousseff story and the media’s role in Brazil’s political crisis are: Pepe Escobar, a journalist and author; Joao Feres, a media analyst; Chico Amaral, an executive editor at the O Globo newspaper; and Carolina Matos, a lecturer at City University, London.

Other media stories on our radar this week: Six members of staff at US conservative news organisation Breitbart have resigned over an incident at a Trump rally; two Australian reporters have been deported and a leading news site has been shut down in Malaysia; and Israeli forces stormed the offices of Palestine Today, accusing the channel of broadcasting inflammatory material.

Zuma’s friends and foes in South African media

President Jacob Zuma generates a lot of bad press in South Africa but he isn’t without allies in the media.

Zuma’s backing from the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and his cosy relationship with the Guptas, an influential family who own several businesses including the New Age newspaper, have helped counter criticism by opposition parties and other negative media coverage.

But with local elections just around the corner and the ruling African National Congress party’s appeal waning, controlling the media message is essential for Zuma – now more than ever.

The Listening Post’s Nic Muirhead travelled to Cape Town to take a look at the complex relationship between Zuma, his government and news outlets in South Africa.

Finally, he may be getting more coverage than any other presidential candidate in the US election race, but Donald Trump actively dislikes the media. We looked through footage of Trump’s rallies and debates to put together a compilation of Trump’s thoughts on the media – in his own words.