Bolsonaro under fire for smearing reporter who covered scandal involving his son

Bolsonaro is Fake News became a top hashtag in Brazil after president shared false information to attack a journalist

Brazils President Jair Bolsonaro has provoked a storm of protest after sharing fake news to attack a journalist who has covered a scandal involving a former aide of his son Flvio, a senator who is also under investigation for money laundering.

Leading newspapers, the Brazilian Investigative Journalism Association and the Brazilian Bar Association, criticised the far-right president for sharing a misrepresentation and false information.

Bolsonaro launched his attack on Sunday night in a tweet with short audio excerpts of a conversation between Constana Rezende, a reporter at the Estado de S Paulo newspaper, and an unnamed man. The president accused her of seeking his impeachment and wanting to ruin the life of his son Flvio.

But in the excerpts Bolsonaro shared, Rezende did no such thing. Speaking in halting English, she can be heard saying the case against the presidents son was ruining Bolsonaro who campaigned on an anti-graft, tough-on-crime platform. Rezende also says the case could lead to the presidents impeachment and expressed her fear that investigations may not advance.

In the same tweet, Bolsonaro also mentioned Rezendes father, Chico Otvio an investigative journalist from rival paper O Globo who investigates criminal gangs that have also been linked to Flvio Bolsonaro.

The president accused Rezende and Otvio of wanting to defeat the government with blackmail, disinformation and leaks. A spokeswoman for the president said Bolsonaro refused to comment on Monday. Rezende and Otvio also declined to comment.

This shows not just a lack of commitment to the truth of the facts, which is serious enough in itself, but also the use of his position of power to try to intimidate media vehicles and journalists, the Brazilian Society of Investigative Journalism and Brazilian Bar Association said on Monday.

After Bolsonaros tweet on Sunday, the hashtag Estado Lies became the top trending topic on Twitter. But by Monday, Bolsonaro is Fake News had replaced it among top hashtags in Brazil.

Estado is a conservative newspaper founded in 1875 that has published heavily critical editorials of recent Bolsonaro controversies, such as his tweet of a pornographic video of a sex act during carnival.

The president shared and endorsed incorrect information, which is serious, said Joo Caminoto, Estados director of journalism. It is an attack on journalism and consequently an attack on democracy.

He said Rezende gave a telephone interview to a person claiming to be a student named Alex MacAllister who said he was doing a comparative study between Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro.

The interview first emerged in a blogpost by a French film-maker and was republished on Sunday by a pro-Bolsonaro website called Tera Livre, in an article written by the press secretary of a state deputy from Bolsonaros PSL party.

Before being elected to the senate last year, Flvio Bolsonaro was a lawmaker in Rios state legislature. Rezende has previously reported on an investigation into atypical financial movements involving staff of 22 state legislature deputies and former deputies, including Flvio Bolsonaros then aide Fabrcio Queiroz. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

There is nothing illegal, Flvio Bolsonaro said in a January TV interview. Queiroz earlier said he made money doing business deals.

Flvio Bolsonaro is also being investigated for money laundering in a separate case. He is a victim of political persecution, his spokesperson told the Antagonista site, and repudiates the attempt to impute irregularities and crime where there are none.

Rezendes father, Otvio, has separately reported on a criminal militia.

One of the gangs leaders was a fugitive former police captain, Adriano da Nbrega, whose wife and mother were members of Flvio Bolsonaros staff until last year.

Police also suspect a gang with links to Da Nbrega was involved in the unsolved murder of the leftist councillor Marielle Franco last year. While a state deputy, Flvio Bolsonaro arranged an official motion of praise for Da Nbrega and another member of the gang.

In a TV interview in January, Flvio Bolsonaro said he was suffering a great political persecution.

On Monday, Mediapart, the French website which originally hosted the interview distanced itself from the blogpost. The information published in the Mediapart club, which served as the base for the tweet from @jairbolsonaro, is false. The article is the responsibility of the author and the blog is independent from the newspapers newsroom, it said in a tweet in Portuguese.

Caminoto said Estados main concern was for their reporters safety.

She had to suspend her social media accounts, her cellphone number was released, she received veiled threats. We respond with journalism, Caminoto said.

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