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Brazil Newspaper Slams NY Times Over Obesity Story PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 05 February 2005

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - A Brazilian newspaper on Thursday accused the New York Times of illustrating a story on obesity in Brazil with a picture of three flabby-looking Czech women on a beach famed for its shapely local beauties.

The Times story went to the heart of Brazil's self-image as a place of sunny sexiness and was the second in less than a year to provoke strong criticism in Brazil, where the globally influential newspaper's coverage has faced heavy scrutiny by local media.

The Jan. 13 story by correspondent Larry Rohter was based on a government study that said more than 40 per cent of Brazilians are overweight.

It noted that Brazil's "gifts to global culture" included the Girl from Ipanema and the thong, or "tanga," bikini.

The photograph, by John Maier, showed three overweight women in bikinis on Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema Beach.

However, according to Globo newspaper, the women were not Brazilians but Czech tourists. "Certainly I am not a girl from Ipanema. I am a woman of a certain age," 59-year-old Milena Suchoparkova told Globo in an interview.

"I think I'm overweight but I never was skinny. I was always robust but I wouldn't say I was obese," said Suchoparkova, Czech-born but a naturalized Italian.

Globo, one of Brazil's biggest dailies, ran its story under the headline "New York Times Screw-up." It ran a separate article on Rohter and questioned the Times' ethics and credibility.

Suchoparkova and her friends were upset because, they told Globo, the photographer had not asked their permission before taking the shot. They were not mentioned in the story itself.

Rohter declined to comment to Reuters. A statement in Friday's New York Times said "The Times regrets that the nationalities of the women in the photo were not verified."

Last May, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ordered Rohter's visa canceled after he wrote an article that many Brazilians were concerned by Lula's drinking habits.

Lula reversed the decision under pressure from domestic and international media groups, and the Human Rights Watch advocacy group cited the government's reaction to the drinking story as a threat to freedom of expression.

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