At least 19 Brazilian journalists and media professionals assaulted during coverage of former President Lula's arrest

At least 19 journalists and media professionals were attacked in various cities in Brazil between April 5 and 7 while working to cover former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) going to jail, according to records from the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji). The assaults, which came from supporters of Lula and the Military Police, were repudiated by press organizations in Brazil and Latin America.

Attacks were reported against journalists, cameramen and employees of various outlets in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, Brasília, João Pessoa and Curitiba.

The former Brazilian president was sentenced in January, in a second instance, to 12 years and a month in jail for corruption and money laundering crimes. On April 5, the Federal Supreme Court rejected by 6 votes to 5 the defense’s request for preventive habeas corpus and with that authorized Lula’s arrest, decreed minutes after the end of the judgment in the STF.

Soon after his arrest warrant was issued, Lula went to the headquarters of the Metalworkers' Union of ABC, in São Bernardo do Campo, where he began his political career. Thousands of supporters of the former president had concentrated there, where there were more attacks on journalists and media professionals.

On the night of the 5th, a man in a t-shirt of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT) threw an egg at photographer Nilton Fukuda, from newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo.  The assault was recorded.

TV Band reporter Sonia Blota also was the target of a thrown egg on the night of the 5th, as she wrote in her Twitter profile.

At dawn on the 6th, demonstrators tried to invade the downstairs room of the union where there were press professionals, according to magazine Veja. Representatives of the  Metalworkers' Union of ABC helped protect the professionals, who were transferred to the third floor of the building.

During the night, reporting vehicles from Band News FM and TV Cultura were plundered, BuzzFeed News reported. The site also reported that a man tried to oust CBN radio reporter Pedro Durán from inside the union on the morning of the 7th.

Also on the 7th, TV Band reporter Joana Treptow was slapped on the hand during a live broadcast. In her profile on Twitter, the journalist said she was forced to leave the union. "We would have stayed longer if we had not been exposed and in danger," she wrote.

Reporters Bruna Barboza of the Bandeirantes radio and Gabriela Mayer of the Band FM radio station also reported assaults via social media posts. "Hard to work with fear," Barboza wrote.

A team from Rede TV! was also confronted and had things thrown at them in front of the union on the 7th, as reported by the station. According to reporter Igor Duarte, a small group of protesters interrupted the recording of a segment. He, the videographer and the assistant decided to move away. "When we passed by the sound car, they became more aggressive, attacking us with things like water, glasses, beer cans. A woman with a paper hit my face," he said, according to Rede TV!.

In Brasília, on the evening of the 5th, a team from the Correio Braziliense newspaper was attacked by about 30 people in front of the headquarters of the Central Union of Workers of the Federal District (CUT-DF), where supporters of the former president gathered. According to the newspaper’s report, demonstrators marched on the newspaper’s car, which held a reporter, a photographer and a driver. They broke one of the vehicle’s windows and shouted offenses against the press, the newspaper and in defense of former President Lula, Correio reported. The driver was able to leave the premises and the professionals were not injured. The case is being investigated by the Civil Police of the Federal District.

At the same site, a team from the channel SBT was also harassed, according to reporter Daniel Adjuto. "You're going to leave here for your sake," one of the protesters was quoted as saying by the reporter on his Twitter profile. A Reuters photographer allegedly was also harassed and prevented from reporting on the protest and eventually left the site, magazine Exame reported.

Several press organizations have condemned the assaults on journalists in the course of their work. For Abraji, "violence against media professionals is unacceptable in any context. To prevent journalists from practicing journalism is to attack democracy. Authors should be identified and punished by the authorities."

In a joint note, the National Association of Newspapers (ANJ), the Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (ABERT) and the National Association of Magazine Editors (ANER) repudiated the aggressions, expressed solidarity with professionals and companies and asked authorities to establish the facts and the punish the aggressors.

"All this unjustifiable and cowardly violence stems from intolerance and the inability to understand journalistic activity, which is to bring information to citizens," the note said. "Freedom of the press and the right to information are basic in democratic societies, and they are being disrespected by the authoritarianism of the aggressors. All those who cherish democracy must stand against these regrettable episodes and mobilize themselves so that they do not happen again. Without journalism, there is no democracy."

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) also repudiated hostilities against journalists. "The IAPA is alert to these incidents of violence and will include them among the topics that will be discussed during its meeting next week in Medellín, Colombia, and in which the situation of press freedom in the continent will be discussed," the organization said.

The Union of Journalists of São Paulo (SJSP) issued a statement rejecting the aggression against the press in São Bernardo do Campo. "We condemn that some people who want to protest against the media do it by attacking the professionals," the organization wrote, adding that "this regrettable situation is also a result of the policies of the large communications companies that support the coup and adopt a editorial line of hostility against popular organizations. "

The organization also announced that it will hold a meeting to discuss violence against journalists on the 12th. The idea is to "democratically discuss the performance of the SJSP in cases of violence against the professionals and discuss new measures to protect professional practice." The event is open to journalists and will take place at the headquarters of the Union, in the center of São Paulo, at 8:00 p.m.

Since January, there have been at least 55 cases of assaults on journalists in the context of coverage of former President Lula, according to Abraji. One of the most serious incidents was the shooting of a bus carrying journalists who accompanied the caravan of the former president of the country to the country’s south. The shots pierced the bus’ bodywork and no one was injured. The attack took place in Quedas do Iguaçu, Paraná, on the night of March 27, and was classified by Abraji as "very serious.”

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.

More Articles