Whose Truth Is It Anyway?

Fight for the Amazon: Brazil’s Media in the Age of Bolsonaro

A journalist investigates land disputes in the Amazon and how Brazil’s government uses misinformation as a smokescreen.

Deep in Brazil‘s Amazon rainforest is the Sao Domingos rubber plantation, the site of continuing land disputes and a recent rash of killings.

The land has long been fought over by small farmers, loggers and powerful agribusiness companies.

Mauricio Monteiro, an investigative reporter and cofounder of Reporter Brasil, a publication that focuses on slavery and rural issues, is looking into reported deaths in the area.

He discovers that dubious land claims and plot sales have led to violent disputes amongst a large cast of shady characters, from supposed landowners to poor rural migrants who have come with the hopes of owning a plot of land.

But the more he investigates, the murkier the story becomes.

“I suspect all of the people I’ve spoken to lie to my face,” he says. “None of them was like a plain villain or a plain victim. So this is a conflict, not only a land conflict but a conflict of narrative.”

Monteiro maintains that the murders are a result of policies implemented by Brazil’s newly-elected government, which he claims has encouraged the plundering of the Amazon to advance a pro-agricultural business agenda.

He says President Jair Bolsonaro‘s budget cuts to government institutions such as INCRA, the national agency in charge of the allocation of land, has caused many disputes regarding land ownerships, leading to violence and the illegal logging of the rainforest.

INCRA’s budget was cut from $1bn to just $29m, according to a representative.

“INCRA is one of the state bodies that had been surgically crippled by Mr Jair Bolsonaro’s actions so it’s almost unfair to expect that an institution that’s working on such a low budget could intervene in a historical conflict as this of rubber plantations in Sao Domingos,” Monteiro says.

Brazil: The Age of Bolsonaro follows Monteiro as he navigates a murky media landscape, risking his safety to report on the Amazon and uncover the truth.