Military Police attacks, arrests several journalists during protests over bus fares in São Paulo

By Isabela Fraga

Along with other citizens, several Brazilian journalists were attacked and arrested by the Military Police during the protests against the increase in bus fares in São Paulo, which began last week. Organized by the Free Transportation Movement, the protests are calling for lower bus fares, waivers for students and quality bus service 24 hours a day.

Journalist Pedro Nogueira, with Portal Aprendiz, was attacked and detained during Tuesday's protests, reported newspaper Folha de S. Paulo. A video published on YouTube captured the moment when police officers attack Nogueira with their batons and arrest him. According to the state's Pubic Safety Secretariat, Nogueira was arrested because he had participated in acts of vandalism,  portal G1 informed.

Nogueira is still being held but will be released on Friday to appear before authorities and respond to the accusations against him, Portal Aprendiz reported. The Association Cidade Escola Aprendiz condemned the arrest and said that "in the same way it did not support the public property damages caused by protesters, Aprendiz condemns the abuse of power and the coercion of freedom of expression carried out by the Military Police." Several organizations and the Union of Professional Journalists in São Paulo called for Nogueira's immediate release.

During Thursday's protests, six reporters with Folha de S. Paulo were shot with rubber bullets, the newspaper reported. Two of them, Giuliana Vallone and Fábio Braga, were hit in the face. Military Police officers also threw tear gas canisters toward two reporters with newspaper Estado de S. Paulo.

Piero Locatelli, a reporter with magazine CartaCapital, was arrested on Thursday afternoon for carrying vinegar to reduce the effects of tear gas, and was released two hours later. According to new portal Terra, photographer Fernando Borges was also detained by the Military Police for 40 minutes this afternoon, despite having his press credentials and photo equipment with him.

Folha journalist Leandro Machado was arrested on Tuesday evening by the Military Police when he followed a protester as he was taken to prison, the newspaper reported. The journalist was released hours later. That same evening, news portal R7 reporter Fernando Mellis was attacked with a baton despite having shown his press credentials, the portal said.

Several organizations condemned the Military Police's violent behavior, which has led to dozens of injuries and arrests. The Brazilian Investigative Journalism Association said it was "preoccupying that this action against the work of the press was originated by the State, more specifically by the Military Police, which was sent to the streets to keep the peace and guarantee people's rights."

Reporters Without Borders said: "journalists cannot be treated as protesters. The police must respect their neutrality and physical integrity." Carlos Lauría, program coordinator in the Americas for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that "journalists must be able to report freely on controversial topics like the recent protests against the increases in public transportation fares. It is unacceptable that the police arrests or harasses reporters who are trying to work."


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.