Death of TV cameraman in Brazilian slum rekindles debate over safety of journalists

The death of Brazilian TV cameraman Gelson Domingos, shot Nov. 6 while covering a police raid in a favela, or slum, outside Rio de Janeiro, has re-ignited concerns about the safety of journalists reporting in high-risk areas. Such concerns previously came to the forefront with the 2002 torture and killing of journalist Tim Lopes in another slum in Rio de Janeiro.

The day after Domingos was killed, the commander of the military police of Rio said he wanted to establish guidelines for journalists covering police operations in favelas, reported iG.

However, the idea for guidelines was questioned by journalist organizations, arguing that the role of establishing limits belongs to the media organizations, and not the police, according to Estadão. "The imposition of limits should be the journalist's rule. No coverage is the worth the life of a journalist, but it is not the police who are going to determine whether the press is going to do a job or not," said the director of the International News Safety Institute (INSI) in Latin America, Marcelo Moreira, as quoted by Estadão.

More important than debating the creation of limits for journalists is the need to discuss procedures to guarantee their safety, according to the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI).

In an editorial published in the newspaper O Dia, reporter Fernando Molica said that journalists can't do their jobs properly if they're worried about safety.

The Rio de Janeiro Journalists Union defended the idea of clear guidelines for journalists working in dangerous areas, pointing out the flaws in the safety of Domingos, who was using a bullet-proof vest that was not as strong as the company he worked for, TV Bandeirantes, had claimed, according to Terra.

As a result of these discussions, ABRAJI announced that it is working with INSI to hold a training session for journalists who work in high-risk areas. The training is planned for the first part of 2012 in partnership with Oboré and journalist João Paulo Charleaux.