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Natalia Viana

Natalia is a Brazilian journalist currently based in London.

She has worked as an investigative reporter for the influential political magazine Caros Amigos, as a correspondent for US newscast Free Speech Radio News and for the UK agency Global Radio News.

Natalia’s first book, Plantados no chao (Planted in the earth) came out in Brazil in June 2007. It exposes political assassinations in Brazil in recent years. She was awarded two national prizes for her investigative work and a scholarship from the British Council to study for a masters degree in London.

Why did you decide to focus on social and human rights issues?

Actually I didn’t take that decision; it was a natural path. When I started working in journalism I soon realised how important it is for a reporter to expose inequalities that are not being addressed.

In Brazil, the mainstream media gives little attention to social issues and the real problems that people face. I suppose that’s because our media is owned by a handful of private companies, each one of them with their own political agenda. It is very common for congressmen to own TV channels and radio stations, even though it is against the law. So the day-by-day political coverage ends up being no more than a party-led political dispute.

In what way do you believe your work is changing that?

I believe I am part of a trend in Brazilian media in which independent voices are trying to find a way to report about poverty, social issues and development. We are now starting to be heard and more small, independent vehicles are appearing. I think the internet has helped a lot, because now people can find the information they want. It gives them the right to say what they want to know. So in a way, the big media is being forced to listen a little bit.

How do you think your journalism has changed over the years?

Reporting on social issues outside South America has been extremely enriching. I think it has showed me that even though media coverage is still quite regional, some issues concern people all over the world. It is a shame that multinationals are able to cross borders so easily while journalism is still very local and limited.

I think by learning about the stories, experiences and struggles of other people, every society would be better prepared to face its own challenges. That’s why I admire the work of Panos. I wish we had something similar in Portuguese.

Journalism by Natalia Viana

As the year ends we remember a senseless death


The end of the year is sad for us at Casa do Zezinho because every mid November we remember how we lost one of our beloved Zezinhos. When I am teaching here at the school, the thing that I most hear is how the kids lack money and how they lack things. In a consumerist…

Sex for drugs: the dark reality of the favelas


I usually get home late, between 11pm and midnight, because there is extra work to be done at Casa do Zezinho, or I have to meet people who want to be our partners, or else I have to speak at a conference. When I get home, I have to take care of the kids. There…

Plastic bellies halt teenage pregnancies


A decade ago, youngsters would start exploring sex when they were around 16 to 18 years old. Today, it is common to find kids of 13 or 14 years who have had sexual experiences or who have an active sex life that will often lead to pregnancy. It seems everything is speeding up. My granddaughter,…

Kids leave school to pay gangs


In the outskirts of São Paulo, violence is part of daily life. I have some students who have woken up with a machine gun pointed at their heads – by criminals or the police. Sometimes their parents are criminals. It is common for us to find that a student is involved with crime. Much more…

How a drug lord became a teacher


I’ll tell you the story of one of the first children I took in here at Casa do Zezinho in 1994. His name is Marcos Lopes, and he is known as Nene. When he was 10 he was very headstrong. He would not behave in school and was bad-tempered, his father was an alcoholic and often beat…

As a teacher I had a problem fitting in


I have always been a rebel. When I moved to the south of São Paulo in the 1980s, Brazil was living under military rule. I was revolted with the lack of freedom, but also with the situation of the people. I always stood for the weakest side, the ones who are marginalized and prejudiced against….

Brazil’s Roma say ‘We are here’


Brazil is home to hundreds of thousands of Roma. Like many European Roma they have spent centuries on the margins of society. Now Brazil's government is taking steps to stop their culture dying out.

Brazil’s media agenda: whose news is it anyway?


Brazil's media giants increasingly import their news from international agencies – bringing with it the world view of the global North. Natalia Viana calls on her fellow Brazilian journalists to adopt a new perspective, with greater public involvement.

Flooding: a tale of rich and poor worlds


Mozambique is one of the world's poorest countries, the UK is one of the richest. Both are struggling to respond to a changing climate.