suggestion for debates suggestion for debates

We should check questionable figures

Do you know that in Brazil... 500 thousand prostitutes are young girls, 30 million women were sterilized, 30% of the juvenile delinquents interned in Febem - São Paulo are infected with HIV, school evasion of 25%, the treasury department has a daily loss of 50 million dollars due to the contraband of drugs and weapons which are not confiscated by the police, the number of abandoned minors ranges from 1 million to 30 million, and abortions, of which we are world champions, sum 3 million per year ?

If you know that, that is because you read newspapers, magazines, or you knew that in the radio or TV. Read, but do not believe. Those figures are just a few examples of the union of sly information sources with the press, searching for figures that may cause impact to sell news.

Brazilian media ignores the necessity of checking with the source the origin of the figures they divulge. Who told you this? This simple question would check fantastic figures, such as 3 million clandestine abortions.

The main responsibility for questionable figures is due to the government, as its statistic service, IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) is precarious and slow. In addition, that office was dismantled during the government of President Collor - the census of 1990 was done in 1991. Due to the lack of reliable figures, lobbies, in one side, interested in social aval for their campaigns (Human Rights Watch American), and in the other side the press, always wishing to include figures in their banners to captivate the public, are performing a mere numerology.

Experience shows that the inspection of the figures may result minor figures. Such analysis was performed by Fúlvia Rosenberg, social psychologist. According to "O Estado de São Paulo", after checking the widely announced figure of 500 thousand young girls prostitutes informed by Unicef, the respectable United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, which was repeatedly published by the media, Fúlvia found out that such number has no pedigree. Researcher Sérgio Costa Ribeiro, from Rio de Janeiro, came to the result of 2%, rather than 25%, as being the correct figure for school evasion.

Figures like the ones presented by Unicef about infant prostitution are published as official figures, but this is not a proof of credibility. Famous "UN recommendations" have roots in the media. Does the organization recommend a drugstore for each group of 10 thousand residents, and cities should have 12 m2 of "green zones" for each person?

The press is not responsible for checking researches, but should explain, in the matters, the origin of the large numbers which bring fear or delight to the public. After being published once, the bombastic number is used by all media agents, strengthening "denunciations" and "social studies".

There are some figures, even presenting reliable sources, that must be checked. That is the case of official figures - the government has no control on them and, when such control exists, there may be some manipulation, such as loss of reserves, Social Security, etc. The "alterations" minister José Serra is making in the "budget" of the Union are shown in the media as a demonstration of fiscal austerity. However, the media informed that the budget was a mere peace of accounting fiction approved by the Congress and returned to Serra, before he took over, to organize, minimally, the accounts.

The "budget" had a R$ 10 million "black hole" included, but the forecasts ignored the increase in tax collection already in course due to "Plano Real". When the minister announces the reduction of R$ 9 billion he is just "cutting the wind" and, instead of reducing expenses, he is just rearranging the figures that the government of Itamar Franco sent to the Congress, with an eight months delay.




igutenberg@igutenberg.org