MARCH 15, 2005
Posted: March 22, 2005

Leonel Lacerda, RBS TV
Éverton Machado, RBS TV


Four unidentified men harassed reporter Lacerda and cameraman Machado while they were covering a farmers’ protest against the state government near the town of Sarandi, in southern Rio Grande do Sul state. The men also burned the journalists’ vehicle.

More than 2,000 farmers and landless peasants had blocked the BR-386 highway for 24 hours, according to Rádio Gaúcha, which is owned by the multimedia group RBS, the parent company of RBS TV. The farmers and peasants were protesting what they saw as the state government’s inadequate response to a drought.

Around 9:30 a.m., as Lacerda and Machado were covering the protest, four masked men broke the RBS TV vehicle’s windows and set it on fire. The men took Lacerda’s microphone and cell phone, and they grabbed Machado’s video camera and threw it inside the burning vehicle. A protest leader escorted the journalists to a police checkpoint about 200 meters away. The journalists were not injured.

Lacerda and Machado filed a complaint with the police. In statements to Rádio Gaúcha, Lacerda said he had good relations with protest leaders and suggested the attackers might not have been farmers but people who infiltrated the protest. He said that some protesters and their leaders complained that RBS TV had failed to cover previous protests, although he disputed that assertion.