After death of cameraman, Brazil’s Minister of Justice discusses proposals to increase safety of journalists

A day after the death of Bandeirantes TV’s cameraman Santiago Andrade on Feb. 10, Brazil’s Minister of Justice José Eduardo Cardozo met with the leaders of the Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (Abert), the National Association of Newspapers (ANJ) and the National Association of Magazine Editors (Aner) to discuss ideas on how to improve the safety of journalists, according to Agência Brasil.

Andrade was killed by a flare while covering a protest in Rio de Janeiro on Feb. 6.

Cardozo said that it is necessary to create laws that guarantee that journalists can safely pursue their job, not only when covering protests, but in any situation that could mean risks while exercising their work. Cardozo announced the creation of a work group that will be composed out of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, employees from the communications sector, journalists and public safety specialists.

Durign their meeting, the representatives of the different journalism organizations gave Cardozo a report on the cases of violence against journalists and media documented during 2013 and 2014, G1 reported. The report mentioned seven cases this year, including one killing, four aggressions and two threats. In 2013, there were 175 cases of violence against members of the press. The president of Abert, Daniel Slaviero, said that there has been and “exponential growth” of violence against journalists since June 2013, when Brazil's massive protests over an increase in public transportation fares began.

The Association of Brazilian Investigative Journalism (Abraji) estimates that the number of assaults against media employees during protests was 118.

More threats during protests

On Feb. 10, the same day that Andrade's death was confirmed, a cameraman of Rede Globo received threats while he filmed another protest against the increase of bus fares in central Rio de Janeiro in the late evening. Menacingly shouting at the broadcaster, protesters approached the journalist and forced him to seek refuge with a group of police officers, Veja reported.

During the protests, various media employees expressed their sympathy towards the cameraman of Bandeirantes TV at the location where he was attacked, reported Estadão. Around 50 media professionals put their equipment to the ground and remained silent for a minute. In another initiative, media employees rallied in front of Brazil’s National Congress to demand the end of violence against journalists.

The death of Andrade also led Rede Globo to publish an editorial piece on Monday in newspaper Jornal Nacional. “It is not only the media that mourns the killing of our colleague from TV Bandeirantes, Santiago Andrade; it’s the whole society. Journalists aren’t special individuals; they are neither better nor worse than other professionals. But in a democracy, it’s essential to have a journalism that always pushes towards independence and accuracy to inform the citizens about what is happening. Without well-informed citizens, there is no democracy,” the editorial stated.

President Dilma Rousseff said she was outraged by Andrade's killing and said that the investigation of the case will continue with the help of the Federal Police.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) urged the Brazilian government to develop the means to protect journalists. “IAPA's demand is related to the fact that the national government has delayed the implementation of protection measures that it promised more than a year ago,” the organization said.

Other journalism organizations like Abraji, ANJ and the National Federation of Newspapers (Fenaj) also lamented Andrade's death and called for an investigation of the incident.

Projects to increase safety

Before Andrade’s death, four bills concerning the protection of journalists and measures to stop impunity of crimes committed against them had already been discussed in the Senate, according to its Tumblr page.

Bill PLS 699/2011 would require police forces to provide bulletproof vests for journalists covering police actions. The bill was rejected by the Commission on Social Affairs (CAS), which considered it unreasonable to require the State to take up the responsibility for and the costs of providing such equipment. Now, the Temporary Commission examines the bill as part of a larger discussion over  public security financing in Brazil.

Bill PLS 743/2011 would require media companies to provide safety equipment, including bulletproof vests, adequate to the danger of reporting assignments. The bill is to be discussed in the Commission on Constitution, Justice and Citizenship Affairs (CCJ).

The other two bills deal with the prosecution of crimes against journalists. Bill PEC 15/2010 would require that any crime committed against a journalist motivated by his or her work is prosecuted at the federal level. The bill’s author argues that such a crime has national implications since it goes against freedom of the press, which justifies a federal trial. The proposal awaits its voting in the CCJ. Lastly, Bill PLS 167/2010 seeks to grant priority to the trial of suspects accused with killing journalists. The bill is also waiting in the CCJ.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.