Dismissal of Brazilian Blogger: Censorship or Just Business?

The abrupt dimissal of the journalist Paulo Henrique Amorim — or PHA as he is referred too — from his anchor-like position at the IG portal has fueled this week’s blogs debate. The humorous and opinionated style used by PHA in his ‘Conversa Afiada‘ blog to attack what he called the ‘PIG’ — an acronym for Portuguese words meaning, ‘the party of the coup-plotting mass media’ — was an outlet for ‘left bloggers’, and many posts were quick to denounce IG’s surprising move as censorship.

Luiz Carlos Azenha’s website says that Paulo Henrique Amorim was dismissed from IG on Tuesday, by fax. What first calls our attention is the suddenness of the portal’s decision. If it was not for Azenha, we would be accessing PHA’s site without reaching it, and not knowing why… It’s almost impossible not to speculate about possible political meddling. We wait for an explanation from IG. While waiting for it, we can speculate and worry about a media witch-hunt that may be starting, promoted by the big media companies and by the politicians who control it, the ones already known to all.
PHA’s DismissalCidadania.com

It is important to mention that IG differentiates itself from the rest of the big Internet outlets by its sympathetic approach to the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. This perspective adds intrigue to the plot, as it is not so easy to identify the forces driving behind PHA’s release.

There is NOT ONE ‘RIGHT-WING BLOG AMONG THE ONES FEATURED ON IG. I will repeat: THERE IS NONE, NO MISERABLE BLOG, NOT EVEN A MEEK ONE. But it was enough for PHA to be expelled from the portal to start this bullshit about ‘PIG’ and other clichés of ridicule adored by the partisans. If it was a political interference, it was the most idiotic move, or a play at the level of those from Kasparov. Or, maybe, SURPRISE: it was none of these, and the contract was finished because of other normal causes, indeed.
Myths about PHA’s contractual terminationImprensa Marrom

IG has an Ombudsman, who has a blog. He’s been posting the opinions of the portal users and readers on PHA’s dismissal, mostly they are negative. He has also managed to pull out an official statement from the portal’s press office:

In a response to the reader’s request for a statement from IG on the Conversa Afiada’s case, I am publishing below the official position divulged by the portal’s press office: “The contract with the website ‘Conversa Afiada’ was unilaterally terminated on March 18th, in full respect to all contractual obligations. There will be a penalty, and the journalist is being fully compensated. The decision to terminate the contract was taken as a result of a review of the contracts of all IG’s contributors, which began some time ago. The website ‘Conversa Afiada’ was extremely disadvantageous to IG’s business model, mainly because of the low return from its ad revenue”.
IG’s explanationsBlog do Ombusdman

The late official explanation was fine, but not enough. So bloggers kept speculating.

PHA had a high salary at IG – up to many dozen thousand reais. He could be the best paid blogger in the country. But in order to imagine the motives behind his dismissal, no one should focus only on the value of his wage. There is more in it besides his well known low visitation numbers.
Paulo Henrique Amorim dismissed from iGPedro Doria Weblog

PHA has himself expanded the story line with new elements reported at his newly created website:

HAS CITIBANK DISMISSED ME? Rather than answering a question, Citibank chooses to halt freedom of speech. I am printing below a post published on Conversa Afiada, when I still was at IG: “BrOi”: Dantas Blackmails Citi [Citibank]. “For ‘BrOi’ [the government sponsored fusion of two big telcos] to succeed, Citi has to make an agreement with Dantas [Daniel Dantas is controller of the Opportunity Group, and Citibank’s former investment manager in Brazil]. In order to force the Citi to make the deal, Dantas has filed a document — in this process where the Citi is suing him — that he obtained through illegal procedures…. Because the Citi, having sued Dantas, now cannot be accomplice to this fraud: allowing the presentation of a stolen document in a court procedure”.
Has Citibank dismissed me?Conversa Afiada

When the news that PHA’s blog had been dropped started to spread through the blogosphere, many readers turned to other IG bloggers in order to check on what was going on. There was Mino Carta’s, a senior journalist known from his major editorial posts in national magazines, who decided to end his blog at IG because of what he felt like ‘echoes of unacceptable situations that he and PHA have known very well’. But there was also Luis Nassif, maybe the most reputable on-the-scene blogger at this time, who came to the rescue of IG’s reputation in front of the blogosphere.

1. It’s been two months now that I’ve been challenging the most truculent venture in the Brazilian media. Through all this time, I have not suffered any pressure from IG. In no moment have I suffered any kind of veto or restriction. 2. There was a unilateral termination of the contract between IG and PHA. Both parties have their reasons to complain, even though the discontinuation was conducted in a disastrous and unelegant way. 3. I wish all the success to PHA — who called this morning to thank me for the note I published about his leaving, and also for the link to the new site. From IG I also received a call, saying that there is no change in relation to the freedom my blog has always had. 4. In no way can this episode be seen as a victory of junk journalism or less space for the independent blogosphere. And PHA also is empowered by the support and solidarity he has received. 5. To the loyal readers I ask for patience, and an effort to cool down the boiling.
BackLuis Nassif Online

A more credible version has cropped up:

What this blog has found about so far — and it’s not too much yet — is that the motivation for the contract termination was PHA’s inflexible position against the fusion of Brasil Telecom with Oi (the ‘BrOi’ he keeps ranting about). As Brasil Telecom is the controller of IG, the whole story makes sense. And if this version is true, we can understand the contract termination from IG’s point of view.
The causes of the Os motivos do rompimentoEntrelinhas

An almost obvious comment from a typical blogger comes as a good advice.

This episode, although we are not talking about a general rule without exceptions, can serve as an example and something to be evaluated in the debate about partnerships between blogs and traditional media, be it a local newspaper with little audience or a mega portal such as IG itself: personal independence, so valued by bloggers, does not always combine with business interests.
Paulo Henrique Amorim and blogs in portalsPrensa 3.0

PHA’s ousting from IG will continue to raise partisan controversy in the blogosphere, but the censorship thesis has lost ground to a collectively formed view that is able to identify such events as adjustments in the development of a new media ecology. Indeed, changes are happening everywhere, and spreading fast.

The blog world is seeing more change right now than I’ve seen in years. Mike Arrington is close to those changes, and reports on some of them (money, linking, and cliques). Mark Cuban caused a bunch of noise a few days back by writing that newspapers shouldn’t call their blogs “blogs” because it destroys their brand. Hey, I agree with that. FastCompanyLive is really my videoblog, but I don’t call it that. Cuban followed it up with another post that’s very astute. Says what matters is why you do what you do.
The changeosphereScobleizer

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