PORTLAND, ME — The battlefields of Afghanistan, the 9/11 attacks on New York, Sierra Leone’s 2014 Ebola epidemic, unrest in Syria, Libya, and Turkey – Brazilian journalist Patrícia Campos Mello witnessed and reported through it all. As a journalist for the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo, Mello’s work has taken her around the world to no less than 50 countries, and in April, it will bring her to Portland, ME.
Mello will deliver the Maine Law 2023 Justice for Women Lecture on April 26 at 7 pm in Hannaford Hall. This is the 12th annual JFW Lecture, presented by The University of Maine School of Law and established with the support of Catherine Lee, founder of Lee International.
Mello will present her talk Sexism, Lies and the Fight for the Truth: A Reporter’s Story. A major 2019 exposé by Mello examined the exploitation of the mass communications app WhatsApp and the spread of disinformation in Brazil’s 2018 presidential campaign. Through years of investigative reporting, Mello demonstrated that the winner of the election, Jair Bolsonaro, benefited from the illegal promotion of false information using the app. This work later made Mello the subject of online attacks and fabricated claims from Bolsonaro himself. Most recently, Mello continued reporting about misinformation in her home country as it related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Mello received a series of prestigious awards for her tireless and fearless reporting, including the International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2019, the 2020 Columbia University Maria Moors Cabot Award, the Red Cross Prize for Humanitarian Journalism in 2017, and many more. In 2020, Mello authored the book “A máquina do ódio – Notas de uma repórter sobre fake news e violência digital,” about disinformation campaigns by populist leaders in Brazil, India, and the US, intimidation of journalists led by the Bolsonaro administration, and the erosion of freedom of the press in Brazil. She is also currently a fellow with Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism.
“Freedom of the press and accuracy in reporting facts are critical to the integrity of any functioning democracy,” Maine Law President and Dean Leigh Saufley said. “When finding and reporting accurate facts requires not just tenacity, but real courage in the face of intimidation and personal risk, the public must rely on those with the courage to persevere. Mello’s tireless pursuit of the truth and commitment to her work exemplifies the importance of this role.”
As in years past, the Courage is Contagious Award will be presented before the lecture on April 26. The honor is awarded to community leaders advancing justice for women in Maine and beyond. This year’s recipients are Claudette Ndayininahaze and Abusana “Micky” Bondo. Ndayininahaze is the Executive Director of In Her Presence, a non-profit in Maine serving immigrant women in the state, helping them to achieve their professional and personal goals. Ndayininahaze immigrated to the U.S. from Burundi, an experience she draws on when supporting other immigrant women in Maine. She sits on several nonprofit boards across Portland. Bondo, program director of In Her Presence, was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and immigrated to the U.S. in 1996. In addition to her role with In Her Presence, Bondo has worked as a medical interpreter and with the City of Portland Schools’ Multilingual and Multicultural Center and serves on the Board of Portland Public Schools.
“This award acknowledges some of the many women throughout our state who embody the spirit and work of the JFW Lecture,” Lee said. “Claudette and Micky’s work is the kind of intersectional, forward-thinking advocacy many immigrant women in this state need and deserve. We are thrilled to honor them with this award, and we look forward to supporting their future work and watching their legacy grow through each life they touch.”