Protesters are seen at a demonstration in Minas Gerais, Brazil, where at least two journalists were injured by explosives. (Screenshot: TV Band Minas/YouTube)

Brazilian journalists injured by explosive devices at police protest

Rio de Janeiro, March 18, 2022 – Authorities in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state should promptly investigate the recent attacks on journalists covering a police protest, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On March 9, during a protest held by striking Minas Gerais police officers in Belo Horizonte, the state capital, unidentified members of that protest threw explosive devices at journalists, according to multiple news reports, Murilo Rocha, state news director for the TV and radio broadcaster Band Minas, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, and video of the explosions posted to Band Minas’ Instagram.

The unidentified explosives inflicted temporary hearing damage to Band Minas journalists Laura França and Caio Tárcia, who were covering the protest, Rocha told CPJ.

Protesting officers also yelled insults at Tárcia and forced him to leave the area, Rocha said.

“Authorities in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state should investigate the reckless use of explosive devices at a protest held by police, which injured journalists Laura França and Caio Tárcia, and hold perpetrators accountable,” said Natalie Southwick, CPJ’s Latin America and the Caribbean program coordinator, in New York. “It is deeply disturbing that these demonstrators risked lives and safety to intimidate journalists and prevent them from reporting freely.”

Rocha told CPJ that one explosion took place near França and camera operator Nicanor Mendes, and that the journalists did not know whether they had been intentionally targeted. Mendes was not injured by the explosion, Rocha said.

The explosion that injured Tárcia, a reporter with Band Minas’ affiliated radio station BandNews FM, appeared to have been thrown intentionally at the journalist, Rocha told CPJ.

In a statement published on March 9, Band Minas condemned the protesters’ behavior and urged the state military police to “accompany the protest and ensure the safety of those involved, including the press workers.”

Rocha told CPJ that França and Tárcia formally reported the incident to the state’s civil and military police on March 10, but had not received any responses as of Thursday.

Previously, in February, protesting police officers insulted a journalist and a camera operator from privately owned broadcaster TV Globo Minas and prevented them from covering a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, according to multiple news reports and a statement from the Minas Gerais Journalists Union.

Police have been on strike in Minas Gerais since late February, according to reports.

“It is very clear there is a hostility against the press during these police officers’ protests, but this is not an isolated case,” Rocha told CPJ.

“There is a generalized hostility against the press. Verbal aggression is constant,” he added.

In an email to CPJ, the Minas Gerais state government’s press office said the state civil police were investigating the attacks, but had not identified any suspects.

The press office also said that state authorities were investigating whether there had been “inadequate and unacceptable behavior during the protests of the security forces.”