Ninja, the rise of citizen journalism in Brazil

August 13, 2013

Hivos believes that media and technology have the power to expose injustice and to hold government and corporations accountable to the public interest.

In most Latin American countries, powerful families own the most important broadcasting corporations and print media, and many politicians control important mass media as well.

That is why Hivos supports initiatives that promote independent and free media. One of these is in Brazil, where a media phenomenon has emerged in the wake of the massive protests that have spread throughout the country since June. The ‘Mídia Ninja’ collective of street journalists, livecasting public events with its “no cuts, no censorship” approach, are now hailed as an alternative to major media outlets.

Mídia Ninja is part of Hivos partner Fora Do Eixo (off-axis), a national movement that promotes culture across Brazil with the participation of 200 groups and more than 2,000 people.

Developed by Fora do Eixo’s communications team, Mídia Ninja – which stands for Independent Narratives, Journalism and Action – came about through contact with traditional journalists and uses digital tools such as cell phones and other 4G devices to produce their broadcasts.

Mídia Ninja wants to promote independent journalism and revolutionize Brazil’s media coverage, and their citizen journalists were out in force when hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets in June to protest against government spending and education policies.

As Deutsche Welle reported, “…while the big TV broadcasters kept their distance, reporting from the city’s rooftops, it was the members of the Ninja media group who stood right next to the demonstrators and broadcasted live. All they needed were a couple of mobile phones, internet access and a Facebook page which got a lot of hits during the protests”.

One of Ninja’s goals is to provide information to people, but they are able to participate as media agents as well. “We want to democratize the world of news and inform people in a better way. You have to reconsider journalism and renew it,” said Bruno Torturra, journalist and head of the Ninja team which was founded in 2012, in DW’s report.

The Ninja journalists are already causing changes in the Brazilian media landscape, where gigantic media companies are run by just a handful of people. As journalist and media professor Sylvia Debossan Moretzsohn told DW, “They fill a hole, especially because they rediscover the art of the street feature. It’s a form to document reality.”

“They also address aspects that are not part of the traditional media’s coverage or are only covered to a minimal extent, because the traditional media are held hostage by official sources and press offices.”

See how one of the Mídia Ninja reporters was arrested (and subsequently released) after police claimed he was trying to “incite violence” by broadcasting the event. A total of seven people were arrested, and one of the protesters was initially denied bail.