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Brazil: Visible and Invisible Indians and Scoops

Brazilian Indians were in the spotlight of world media this week and the local blogosphere has much to say about it. From the images of an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon, which were ‘leaked’ first in a blog that is now claiming attribution rights for its scoop, to the enraged protest caught on camera against the building of dams along the Xingu River in the Amazon basin where an official of Brazil’s national electric company got slashed by traditional machetes and clubs. Bloggers had different takes from the dominant mainstream media narratives.

Here is the Brazilian GLOBO video of the engineer's encounter with the Indians.

Since the gathering in Altamira, the Brazilian media have focused mostly on the issue of violence. GLOBO included a special report in its extremely popular weekend TV magazine FANTASTICO and here's the text (computer) translated into rough English. As you can see, the focus is on the engineer and the Indians associated with the confrontation and there is very little about the many consequences of building the dam. While the Brazilian mainstream media are preoccupied with the “hot” story, various blogs and NGOs have been struggling to deliver the deeper messages. Encontro Xingu ‘08 provides great coverage of the whole event with in-depth analysis by David Cunningham and lots of wonderful photos by Sue Cunningham. The Xingu Encounter was also reported by International Rivers along with English translations of the declarations of the Xingu Peoples. And here's the (computer) translated final statement of the broad coalition of Brazilian grassroots organizations that are opposing building of th,e Belo Monte dam.
ViolenceVision Share

How interesting that that in the midst of this debate over the proper focus when presented with such strong images of a violent event, Altino Machado, a famous blogger from Acre state in the Amazon region, presented to the world the first images of what could be one of the last isolated tribal groups in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest — the so called, ‘Invisible Indians’.

\'Invisible Indians\' in the Amazon

If you've seen Wade Davis's unforgettable 2004 TED Talk — where he evokes the magic of the world's cultural diversity, and speaks so eloquently about the alarming rate with which cultures and languages are dying — then you might find this photo as heart-stopping as I did. It's so surreal, I thought at first it must be a hoax. But Reuters just picked the story up, and I'm going to assume they did my fact-checking for me. The photo shows members of one of the world’s last uncontacted tribes, who were spotted and photographed from the air in a remote corner of the Amazon rainforest near the Brazil-Peru border. Survival International, an advocacy group for tribal people, released the photos on their website and quotes Jose Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Junior, who works for the Brazilian government’s Indian affairs department: “We did the overflight to show their houses, to show they are there, to show they exist …This is very important because there are some who doubt their existence.” “What is happening in this region is a monumental crime against the natural world, the tribes, the fauna and is further testimony to the complete irrationality with which we, the ‘civilized’ ones, treat the world,” Meirelles said. Apparently, more than 100 uncontacted tribes remain worldwide, with half living in Brazil or Peru. Extraordinary.
Unbelievable photo of one of the world's last uncontacted tribesTedBlog

Extraordinary indeed. It was reported as breaking news at GVO on May 23rd, translated into Portuguese and Chinese, and launched into global awareness via the blogosphere. It took a week for the mainstream media to wake up to the “old news” but the pictures were still amazing and blogs were quick to point out that the media launched its stories without respecting the elementary rules of attribution.

Êta racinha miserável. Espera passar um tempo (cinco dias) e depois publica como se fosse furo deles. Seguem tratando a Amazônia como uma terra exótica, pois não aprofundam na questão que mais preocupa ao sertanista José Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Júnior, que é “O começo do fim da Amazônia peruana“. Leiam a mensagem que recebi hoje do jornalista Tom Phillips, correspondente no Brasil do diário inglês The Guardian: – Caro Altino, tudo bem com você? Você tem o contato do José Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Júnior por acaso? Um grande abraco. E assim foram dezenas de outros pedidos de contato com o sertanista que atendi por causa da reportagem sobre os índios isolados. Os russos são honestos. Confira aqui. Ou o brasileiro José Murilo Júnior, do Global Voices.
Racinha MiserávelAltino Machado

What a miserable class. They wait until some time has passed (five days) and then they publish as if the scoop was theirs. They keep treating the Amazon as an exotic land, as they do not go deep into the issues and that worries the backcountry expert José Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Júnior. [This ignorance] is “The Beginning of an End to the Peruvian Amazon“. Read the message I received today from journalist Tom Phillips –The Guardian's correspondent in Brazil — “My dear Altino, everything right with you? Is there a chance that you have the contact for José Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Júnior? A big hug.” There were many other contact requests with the explorer, which I have attended because of the report on the uncontacted Indians. The Russians are honest. Check it out. Or the Brazilian José Murilo Júnior, from Global Voices.
Miserable ClassAltino Machado

Altino, até os acreanos! Essa Renata Brasileiro, do Página 20 [leia aqui], é uma voadora. Ela escreveu: “A notícia veio à tona por meio da agência BBC e foi veiculada com destaque em quase todos os jornais on line no início da tarde de ontem. De acordo com a agência, as fotografias foram feitas durante uma missão da Funai, que incluiu um sobrevôo à região isolada”. Estou revoltado com a omissão da fonte correta pela mídia nacional e internacional, mas não poderia supor que seus vizinhos agissem dessa forma.
Tô com Altino e não abro!Site Chico Bruno

Altino, even the media from Acre! This Renata Brasileiro, from Página 20 [read it here], is an amateur. She wrote “the news came to light through the BBC agency and made headlines in almost all of the online news portals yesterday afternoon. According to the agency, the pictures were made during a FUNAI [Brazilian National Indian Foundation] mission that included a “flight over the isolated region”. I am offended by the omission of the correct source by the national and international media, but I could never suppose that your neighbors would act this way.
I am with Altino all the way!Site Chico Bruno

Quem ganhou ou vai ganhar dólares com a divulgação das fotos dos “índios invisíveis” do Acre? Altino Machado, não se iluda. Entendo a sua frustação de jornalista que não foi devidamente citado nas matérias que hoje correm o mundo. Da mesma forma, vejo que o sertanista José Carlos dos Reis Meireles está satisfeito porque o trabalho dele está sendo reconhecido, deu entrevistas para dezenas de jornais e revistas do mundo etc. Mas o que a Survival International (SI) tem a ver com as fotos e o trabalho da Funai? Nada. Mesmo assim a ONG tirou a sorte grande e obteve, com as suas técnicas de marketing, colar o nome da entidade em quase todas as matérias relevantes de jornais e revistas mundiais que publicaram matérias sobre as fotos dos índios isolados, sem ter dado um centavo para tornar realidade o que vimos em primeira mão neste blog e na Terra Magazine.
Devolva os dólares, Survival!Ambiente Acreano

Who will or not earn dollars with the disclosure of the “Invisible Indians” from Acre? Don't fool yourself, Altino Machado. I understand your journalist's frustration with not being properly attributed in the articles which are now running around the world. In the same way, I see that the backcountry scout José Carlos dos Reis Meireles is happy that his work is being recognized as he gave interviews to dozens of global newspapers and magazines, etc. But what has the [NGO] Survival International (SI) to do with the pictures and with FUNAI's missions? Nothing. Even then the NGO won the jackpot, and with their marketing techniques, they succeeded in pasting the organization's name over the pictures of the uncontacted Indians, without putting out a cent to make what we saw first happen in your blog and in Terra Magazine.
Turn back the dollars, Survival!Ambiente Acreano

Altino's blog is really a special source of information on the Amazon, and it is not by chance that his posts are now being featured in Terra Magazine, an innovative online editorial project that also claims a scoop for the pictures of the ‘Invisible Indians'. But while the online media environment still struggles to reach balanced business models, having to deal with so many new webnative variables, we may be witnessing the emergence of a time where ‘scoops’ of the old exclusive kind may not be what really matters. The discursive and flowing conversation of many voices in an open debate with mainstream authoritative media sources may be the kind of collaborative “scoop” we all are seeking right now.

The first steps toward building this new open media environment may be the recognition of the value of all those voices, which could start with simple and easy respect for attribution netiquete by the mainstream media… and bloggers.

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