Journalists with TV Aratu and Band are seen fleeing after they were attacked by men in Bahia state, Brazil, on February 1, 2022. (Screenshot: YouTube/Band Jornalismo)

Brazilian news crews attacked while covering death in police clash with gang

Rio de Janeiro, February 7, 2022 – Brazilian authorities should promptly and thoroughly investigate the assaults of employees at two broadcasters in Bahia state, and ensure that journalists covering crime and security can work safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.

At about 11 a.m. on February 1, two men fired warning shots at reporting teams from the local privately owned broadcasters TV Aratu and Band in the Bahia city of Salvador, and assaulted one of the crew members, according to multiple news reports and statements by each broadcaster, which CPJ reviewed.

The TV Aratu crew, comprising reporter Fabio Gomes and camera operator Carlinhos Silva, and the Band team of reporter Toni Júnior and camera operator Jefferson Alves, were in the area to report on a killing that occurred earlier that morning, when the men fired into the air, yelled at them to leave, and assaulted Alves, according to those sources and Gomes and Júnior, both of whom spoke to CPJ in phone interviews.

Both teams fled the scene after the attack and reported it to the Military Police, who arrived 15 to 20 minutes later but have not made any arrests or identified any suspects, the journalists told CPJ.

“Brazilian authorities must thoroughly investigate the violent attack on news crews from TV Aratu and Band, and break the pattern of impunity in crimes against journalists,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Journalists reporting on crime and policing should be able to work safely, and without fear that they will be harmed or subject to intimidation.”

The crews were preparing to broadcast live from Santa Teresa Street, where someone had been killed earlier that day in crossfire between police and gang members when they were attacked, Gomes said.

Júnior and Alves were near the victim’s house, when the two men arrived and shot “towards the air, the walls and [at] the cars in the street,” Júnior said.

He said the men hit Alves with a gun, punched him, and kicked him in the ribs, and that he and Alves fled the scene, leaving their equipment behind. After the police arrived, Júnior and Alves recovered their camera, which was lying on the ground after apparently being damaged by the attackers, Júnior said.

In its statement, Band said that Alves was treated at a local clinic and was not seriously injured.

Gomes told CPJ that he believed the attackers’ aim was “not to kill us, it was to frighten us. But being silent is worst, they will feel entitled to attack any press team to silence them. And we cannot have that.”

“This type of assault is to intimidate journalists, so they don’t cover what is happening in those communities,” Moacy Neves, president of the Bahia Journalists Union, told CPJ in a phone interview.

CPJ emailed the Bahia Military Police for comment but did not receive any response.