Brazilian Police Bar Press from Doing Its Work

Storaenso company London-based international freedom-of-expression organization Article 19 has issued a note condemning the abuses committed by Brazil's military police officers against Brazilian journalists covering a raid to remove peasants occupying a farm in the municipality of Rosário do Sul, in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, at the frontier of Brazil with Uruguay.

On March 3, 2008, around 800 women occupied a farm owned by the Finnish-Swedish paper manufacturer, Stora Enso, in the South of Brazil. The protesters are members of Via Campesina, an international peasant movement that fights for family farm-based production and decentralized food production and supply chains.

According to Brazilian press reports, Stora Enso has bought 45,000 hectares of land in the frontier between Brazil and Uruguay, where it plants eucalyptus tress.

The protesters argue that Stora Enso should not have bought land in that area, since Brazil's legislation forbids foreign companies to exploit natural resources in the frontier zone. Following Via Campesina's occupation of the farm, the company obtained a judicial order to remove them from the area.

Journalists covering the police raid on March 4 told that military police officers stopped and isolated them more than ten kilometers away from where the raid was taking place. "It wasn't a matter of keeping the reporters safe. We were isolated and couldn't take pictures, film or hear what was happening in the farm," said Eduardo Seidl, a journalist from local newspaper Correio do Povo.

Mateus Flores, a reporter for Indymedia, said that police threatened and detained him, and confiscated his equipment. He said that he had managed to film part of the operation, and registered violent actions and the harassment of two women by one of the regional commanders of the military police.

After that, a colonel confiscated his camera and detained him for around thirty minutes with no justification, he state. According to Flores, police returned his camera but kept the DVD in which the images had been registered. Police also searched other reporters.

According to Via Campesina, around fifty women were hurt during the operation by rubber bullets, pieces of tear gas bombs, and aggressions by police officers. Two of the protesters were arrested. The Military Police in Rio Grande do Sul did not comment on the case.

More Aggression

A journalist and a camera from local TV channel RIC-TV, in the town of Almirante Tamandaré, Paraná, were reportedly intimidated by a police officer on March 10.

The TV workers had just finished filming at the city government building for a report on the shortage of vacancies within a municipal day care center when a police officer, working as a guard for the government building, tried to confiscate their equipment and pointed a gun to their driver's head.

According to the Journalists Labor Union in Paraná there have been other attacks on journalists in state recently.

Journalist Simone Munhoz and cameraman Marcelo Dorce said they had authorization to film inside the building. However, the police officer tried to confiscate the camera and said he would delete the images.

The police officer then followed the journalist and the cameraman and tried to prevent them from entering their car. It was then that the officer reportedly pointed a gun to their driver's head.

The military police arrived at the scene soon after the event and Military Police Command stated that the police officer's actions would be looked into.

In addition the Secretary of Public Security in Paraná stated publicly that the police officer would be punished. On March 13, the mayor of Almirante Tamandaré, Vilson Rogério Goinski, visited the TV Channel and apologized for the event.

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