March 11, 2019 / 3:22 PM / in a month

Brazil's Bolsonaro rebuked for false accusation against reporter

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s bar association and top investigative journalism group Abraji blasted far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday for his latest Twitter attack on the press.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a credentials presentation ceremony for several new top diplomats at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil March 8, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Bolsonaro on Sunday tweeted that a reporter with the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper had been caught on an audiotape saying that she wanted to aid in his impeachment and “ruin the life” of his son Flavio, a senator under investigation for money laundering.

However, the audio Bolsonaro included in his tweet, with the reporter speaking in halting English, made clear she said the corruption investigation into Flavio could create serious problems for the Bolsonaro government and possibly lead to his impeachment.

Neither the president nor Flavio Bolsonaro have provided explanations to federal prosecutors, who are investigating Flavio in connection with at least two luxury apartments he purchased in Rio.

Abraji and the OAB bar association said in a joint statement on Monday that Bolsonaro was trying to “intimidate media outlets and journalists.”

Bolsonaro’s tweet on Sunday rallied his supporters on the social media platform, with the hashtag “Estado Lies” becoming the top trending topic on Twitter and with threats being made against the reporter. But by Monday, “Bolsonaro is Fake News” had replaced it among top Twitter hashtags in Brazil.

The president’s office said Bolsonaro declined to comment on the incident.

Estado published a story on its website on Monday sharply criticizing the president’s tweet.

It said the audio of the reporter was made during a Jan. 23 phone conversation she had with somebody who went by the name Alex MacAllister. That person identified themselves as a student doing a comparative study of Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump and asked the reporter about the investigation into Flavio.

Bolsonaro often uses Twitter to lash out at the coverage of his presidency and, like Trump, has said he is at war with “fake news.”

Reporting by Brad Brooks; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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