Brazilian correspondent is detained in Yale University after trying to interview visiting judge

The Washington correspondent of Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, Cláudia Trevisan, was arrested on Thursday, Sep. 26 after trying to interview the president of Brazil's Federal Supreme Tribunal (STF) Joaquim Barbosa, who was attending a conference at Yale University.

Trevisan tried to speak to chief justice Barbosa, who was participating at a private seminar at the university. According to Slate, Trevisan was told she couldn't attend the event and decided to wait outside. When she asked a police officer to verify the location of the seminar, she was taken elsewhere to be interrogated. Officers held her passport during that time, Slate said.

The journalist was then handcuffed for criminal trespassing and kept isolated for almost five hours, first inside a police car and later in a cell at a police station in New Haven, Conn., city in which the university is based, news portal Terra said.

In an interview with British newspaper The Guardian, Trevisan said she did not try to enter the room where the seminar took place at any time and accused the university police of "extremely violent and disproportionate" behavior.

"I was handcuffed, treated like a criminal, it was totally shocking. For me it was hard to understand and totally unnecessary. It's violence against a journalist trying to do her work," she told The Guardian.

Two days later, Yale published a press release saying that Trevisan's detention was "justified" but would not press any charges against her.

"She came onto Yale property, entered the law school without permission, and proceeded to enter another building where the attendees of the seminar were meeting," the university said. "When asked why she was in the building, she stated that she was looking for a friend she was supposed to meet. She was arrested for trespassing. The police followed normal procedures and Ms. Trevisan was not mistreated in any way."

Trevisan has been Estadão's correspondent in Washington since late August and had worked in China in the five years prior to that. She said she went to cover Barbosa's visit to Yale, where he participated in the Global Constitutionalism Seminar 2013, and exchanged e-mails with Yale communications director Janet Conroy, who told her that the press would not be allowed to attend the seminar.

Trevisan had previously spoken with Barbosa, who refused to be interviewed during his visit to Yale. Trevisan told Barbosa that she would wait for him after the event to try to talk to him, Estadão said.

Barbosa has been on the spotlight for his comments on the Mensalão scandal, which has involved several public figures in Brazil and has been one of the most discussed topics in the country in recent months. His attendance to the Yale seminar was not published in his official agenda. After learning about Trevisan's arrest, Barbosa lamented the incident saying the journalist was "only doing her job."

Several journalism groups criticized the university police's reaction to the episode. Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, called the university police's reation “a disproportionate attitude of vigilance and security at the university, which in the end limits a journalist task.”

In his blog, journalist Laurentino Gomes wondered: "Would the treatment have been the same if it had been a reporter from The New York Times or the Washington Post or TV network CNN or any of the other large media outlets in the U.S.?" According to Gomes, "there isn't 'an off-limits event for the press' if it's of public interest or there's someone who must be interviewed in the name of public interest."

For Estadão journalist Lúcia Guimarães, "besides being absurd and outrageous, the detention of Claudia Trevisan in the Yale campus -- a university who was fined in May by the Obama administration for failing to report rape and sexual violence cases -- is a reflection of a sinister tendency, a Faustian pact of the American society as a security apparatus," she wrote in her column.

On social media, Trevisan received the support of both Brazilian and U.S. colleagues. Read the Storify below with some of the comments:

[View the story "Manifestações sobre prisão de correspondente brasileira em Yale" on Storify]

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.

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