News is news, too

Instituto Gutenberg was founded in 1994, to act as an independent inspector of the media in Brazil. Persons and institutions supporting this initiative have a history of steadfast defense of democratic freedons and deeply believe that freedom of the press is an invaluable asset of society, which, together with freedom of thought, speech, religion, organization and individual rights, helps to provide direction and power to civilized nations.

The Institute aims to bring to public debate media issues whose discussion has not been encouraged lately, and to iluminate areas of shadow, such as ethical limits, professional attention, accuracy of information, possible manipulation of news and the very special relationship existing between publishing companies (and their journalists) and the persons and institutions covered in the news.

Instituto Gutenberg was created at a very favorable historic moment, because not only has Brazil been enjoyng one of the longest periods of democratic freedom in national historic, but also because, favoured by such freedom, the media is strong and anxious to play its role as a watchdog of public administration. Critical analisys of the media (and journalists), which is common in developed countries, would not make sense in an environment where the press had in any way restricted its mission of informing the public and if the public could not fully exercise its right to be informed.

Media analisys and debates are routine in the country where freedom of the press is a traditional feature, the United States of America. A number of newspapers are open for debate with the public, through their ombudsmen, while major American papers, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, often publish news about the media. The most respectable universities, such as Columbia and Washington, publish magazines which can be seen as a scanning process of American media procedures, rather than as mere academic exercise. This does not happen by accident. As a society of lawyers, the people of the United States would take the media to court as easily as a runover victim would sue the trampler.

In Brazil, the technical-industrial progress of the media has not bee matched by a corresponding growth in the ethical rigour to which the rest of the market is a submitted. Instituto Gutenberg believes that freedom of the press should in no way be limited by legislation. As the Criminal Code does not prevent anbody from killing someone, newspapers should not be forbidden to pubhish whatever they wish. However, as the Criminal Code defines what crime is and determines the punishment, our belief is tht journalists and the media must also be ethically and legally answerable for what they choose to pubhish. One of our main banners is the right that citizens should be granted, to have a prompt and easy way to reply to the media.



igutenberg@igutenberg.org