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Amazonas court lifts gag order on local government critic

. May 21, 2020
Amazonas gag order pandemic YouTuber Jack Serafim: gag order. Photo: JS

No other state has had more trouble fighting the Covid-19 pandemic than Amazonas — death rates are close to 400 per 100,000 people, and infections have topped 600 per 100,000, both national records. Along with the health crisis, Governor Wilson Lima faces impeachment proceedings. Desperate to save his seat, Mr. Lima has gone after reports criticizing his administration. At his request, prosecutors filed a lawsuit against a YouTuber who has published several videos denouncing the state’s lack of infrastructure to deal with the overflow of patients.

The state got its way in trial courts, ordering the removal of a video entitled “Covid-19: what is worse than the virus for Amazonas.” The state claims the video is filled with falsehoods and accused the YouTuber, Jack Serafim, of spreading panic and misinformation. Google appealed the decision and the State Court of Amazonas revoked the gag order.

All over the globe, governments are trying to deem journalistic coverage — which often sheds light on the negative side of their pandemic response — as fear-mongering. Last month, Government Secretary Luiz Eduardo Ramos complained that the press coverage in Brazil during the pandemic has been overly negative, pleading for journalists to print “positive news.”

Trying to take charge of the narrative, the Brazilian government changed its official Covid-19 dashboard, emphasizing the number of recovered cases in the country, instead of total infections and deaths, in a textbook example of how data visualization can be used to mislead the public. Data editor Marcelo Soares explained in a previous post why data on “recovered cases” is tricky and could be highly misleading.

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Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

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