Reporters suffer censorship, threats and attacks while covering a land seizure in Brazil

Reporting on the repossession of land seized in the community of Pinheirinho, in São José dos Campos in the interior of the state of São Paulo, has been marred by police brutality and the curtailment of press freedom.

Municipal police fired two shots at reporter Lúcia Rodrigues for the network Brasil Atual when she was in the field trying to interview squatters ejected on Jan. 22, the same day security forces invaded the area, according to the network's website. Rodrigues identified herself as a journalist with her arms in the air and a recorder in her hand when the shots were fired.

In another instance, a vehicle for the broadcaster Globo was set on fire in the community but no one was injured, reported the newspaper Folha de São Paulo.

"It's unacceptable that the police that should be guaranteeing the right to work and the safety of journalists are instead attacking these professionals. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated instance; instances like this have been reported before," said the president of the Professional Journalists Union of the State of São Paulo (SJSP in Portuguese), José Augusto Camargo.

Along with attacks, journalists have also been kept from interviewing squatters in the community by the police. The website Terra reported on Jan. 23 that police were stationed at the entrances to Pinheirinho, limiting press access to the community.

"I was in São José dos Campos because of the violent repossession of the Pinheirinho community this Sunday. The military police prohibited journalists from entering the area, which is always a bad sign--without a free press, society receives limited reports and inspection of public actions is crippled. Which is to say, it's easier to hide what you don't have to show," journalist Leonardo Sakamoto told the magazine Vírus Planetário.

SJSP asserts that the military police's behavior is a clear restriction of freedom of the press.

Several non-governmental organizations and social media users haven spoken out against the police invasion, criticizing the eviction in Pinheirinho, considered a massacre, where families have been settling for eight years. Currently, there are nearly 9 thousand residents contesting the eviction.