June 14, 2013 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Call for federal investigation into police abuses during São Paulo protests

Reporters Without Borders calls on the Secretariat for Human Rights and its minister, Maria do Rosário, to investigate acts of violence and grave violations of constitutional rights by the Military Police (PM) during the protests against public transport fare hikes that began in São Paulo five days ago. Similar investigations should be carried out in other cities where abuses of the same nature take place. “The PM’s crackdown on the street protests has been accompanied by serious violations of freedom of information, one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the 1988 democratic constitution,” Reporters Without Borders said. “These abuses, which have included arrests and targeted violence against a number of journalists, require a detailed investigation and proportionate sanctions. The investigators must establish which public officials were responsible.” Pedro Ribeiro Nogueira, a Portal Aprendiz journalist who was arrested during a protest on 11 June, was still being held yesterday despite the habeas corpus request presented by his lawyers. According to our sources, he was due to be freed today. We hope that this is the case, and in the meantime we urge the authorities to drop the extraordinary charge of “formation of a criminal gang” (formação de quadrilha) that has been brought against him. The fourth day of demonstrations yesterday saw the arrests of two more journalists, who fortunately were released later, and other journalists injured. Despite telling police he was a journalist, Piero Locatelli of the weekly Carta Capital was arrested in downtown São Paulo for carrying a bottle of vinegar for use on teargas burns. Portal Terra photographer Fernando Borges was held for about 40 minutes although he also showed the police his press papers. Giuliana Avallone of TV Folha was hit in the eye by a rubber bullet fired by a member of the elite São Paulo PM unit called La Rota. A colleague, Fábio Braga of the Folha de São Paulo newspaper, was also injured in the face. Teargas was fired at five other Folha journalists and two from the O Estado de São Paulo newspaper. “Have people forgotten that the Military Police were created during the military dictatorship to act as support for the army?” freelance journalist Ivan Seixas, coordinator of the São Paulo State Truth Commission, asked rhetorically when contacted by Reporters Without Borders (cf. this report). “Its methods have never evolved since the darkest years of the dictatorship,” Seixas added. The latest events seem to confirm his view.