RNW's Portuguese desk: Going silent in Brazil

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) is changing course and going forward in a slimmed-down version: a smaller organisation focusing on Free Speech. From the old RNW ("2.0") to the new: a tour of the desks which will be terminated or are changing their approach.

Part V: The Portuguese desk

"Many people in Brazil are interested in the Netherlands, especially about issues such as euthanasia, drugs and abortion."

"The Portuguese desk provided a critical voice on news and background stories throughout Brazil, and that is quite unique. We were able to offer national coverage through our extensive network of over 400 partner stations. They get our programmes on CD and distribute them via local stations in their own region. Now that we are definitively stopping as of 1 July, nationwide coverage will also end," says Mariângela Guimarães, who, together with Daniela Stefano, makes up the Portuguese desk in Hilversum.

That's a huge loss in a media landscape that could use a little more diversity.

Guimarães: "Officially, the press is free in Brazil. There is no censorship by the government, it's more by the media owners themselves. Newspapers, television and radio stations are owned by large corporations with economic interests - they don't want to broadcast negative stories about their businesses. There is little attention paid to controversial issues such as deforestation, human rights, the environment - topics on which we always have stories. In Brazil there are websites and organisations that expose these matters, but their reach is local and therefore much smaller. Moreover, many people have no access."

Dutch and European themes
Over the years, the Portuguese desk has been reduced to two journalists in Hilversum and one in Brazil - three people to maintain the relationships with the partner stations. They produced the current affairs programme Europa Mix which focused not only on Brazil itself but also on Dutch and European topics of interest to the South American country. They also produced music programmes and a website.

The department is proud of the many series and documentaries that have been sent on CD in recent years to partner stations in Brazil. These were often used more than once. There was a great deal of interest in topics such as women's rights in Brazil, AIDS, renewable energy, and the position of Brazil's indigenous people. And last year a beautiful special was made commemorating 100 years of Dutch immigration to Brazil. Daniela Stefano's series about immigrants was also well-received.

"Our departure represents a further erosion of the independent media landscape in Brazil. It's almost a trend: Radio France International and the BBC have already down-sized their Portuguese departments. In addition, they focus primarily on "hard" news and not - as we do - on the background stories and controversial issues," says Mariângela Guimarães.

"Also, there's really no alternative for news about the Netherlands. Our programmes often covered the Dutch point of view on topics such as drugs, euthanasia and abortion. Brazilian media pay little attention to these topics, but there is widespread interest."