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Police arrest, attack Brazilian reporters during protest in São Paulo against World Cup

The Military Police detained and attacked fourteen journalists that were reporting on a protest that took place on Saturday Feb. 22 in the center of São Paulo against the World Cup, which will take place this summer, according to the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji). At least five of the arrested journalists’ rights were violated even though they identified themselves as members of the press.

With this incident, the number of reported aggressions against journalists reporting on the protests that have swept the country since they started last June went up to 133. According to data published by Abraji, 107 episodes of violence -- about 80 percent of all aggressions -- were started by law enforcement officers. São Paulo is becoming the most violent city for journalists covering the protests, with 63 incidents, 57 of them committed by military police.

According to newspaper Estado de S. Paulo, two of its workers, photojournalist Evelso de Freitas and journalist Barbara Ferreira Santos, were assaulted by police. Ferreira Santos was temporarily arrested.

Sérgio Roxo, from news outlet O Globo, said he was grabbed and thrown to the ground before being detained. Paulo Toledo Piza (G1) ,Fabio Leite (Estadao), Victor Moriyama (freelancer) and Felipe Larozza (Vice) were also temporarily arrested.

Bruno Santos (Terra) sprained his ankle and was hit when he tried to escape the confusion in the middle of the protest. Amanda Previdelli (Brasil Post), Mauro Donato (Diario do Centro do Mundo), Tarek Mahammed (Rede de Fotografos Ativistas), Alexandre Capozzoli (Grupo de Apoio Popular) and Alice Martins (Vice) also suffered attacks, Abraji said.

Folha de S. Paulo highlighted that none of the policemen involved in the aggressions have been held responsible. Meanwhile, three protesters have been held responsible for attacking soldiers. From the 10 best known cases reported by the media, only one police officer suspected of attacking someone has been identified. Those responsible for shooting the rubber bullets that injured reporters Sergio Silva and Giuliana Vallone in June were not publicly identified.

The National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj) denounced the assaults. “It’s not possible for the São Paulo police to continue practicing this sort of brutality,” said Celso Schroder, president of the organization. “The police can’t decide what is or isn’t published.”

“Trying to stop the press and acting against society’s right to information is, in the final analysis, acting out against democracy,” said Abraji’s president, Jose Roberto de Toledo.

Last week, after the death of Santiago Andrade, the cameraman injured after being hit by an explosive thrown by a protester in Rio de Janeiro, the Justice Ministry said that they were planning to adopt new security measures to protect journalists during the protests. New instructions for police and a law forbidding the seizure of cameras and cell phones are being created.

Beyond increasing protection for journalists, with the definition of protocols for police action that will include a section on journalistic activity, there have been suggestions to equip journalists with protective gear and courses on covering protests. The government also wants to increase the efficiency of judgment and punishment for crimes against journalists.

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