August 11, 2020

On the eve of a decisive trial, organizations call for justice for Brazilian photographer who lost his sight while covering a protest

Together with other civil society organizations, Reporters without Borders calls upon the Brazilian Supreme Court to indemnify Alex Silveira, hit by a rubber bullet fired by the Military Police during a rally in São Paulo, thus discouraging violations to press freedom and freedom of demonstration.

Open Letter

The case of photographer Alexandro Wagner Oliveira da Silveira, hit by a rubber bullet in his left eye during a protest in May 2000, is on the agenda at the Federal Supreme Court (STF) to be tried on August 14. The organizations that sign this open letter emphasize that this moment is crucial, since the Court represents the last chance to correct a serious injustice that marks one of the most emblematic episodes of violence against communicators in the context of protests in the country.

On May 18, 2000, while doing the coverage of a protest, Silveira was shot in the face by a rubber bullet fired by a military police officer, which led to loss of vision in his left eye. Since then, he fights for accountability, asking the State of São Paulo to indemnify him for the damages caused to his vision.

The case exhibits a history of injustices, because although the indemnity was granted in the first instance, the São Paulo Court of Justice (TJSP) reformed the decision and considered that the photographer was solely responsible for his injury, since he would have “remained in the place of turmoil”. The decision of the São Paulo Court confirms the violent conduct of the police in the State, thus encouraging the occurrence of new violations in the context of protests.

The Federal Supreme Court judgment is relevant to the extent that the State's responsibility for the injury suffered by Silveira will be discussed. When the police extrapolate their prerogatives and violently repress protesters and communicators, ignoring rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution, it is the duty of the Judiciary to ensure the guarantee of these rights, which includes the reparation of victims and the accountability of public security bodies.

The right to protest must be guaranteed regardless of the agenda of the demonstrations and the political agreement of representatives of the State and members of the Justice System with its content. In addition, the presence of the press in protests, in a safe manner, must be guaranteed as an indispensable element for the full accomplissement of civil rights, such as freedom of press, right to information and right to protest, essential and non-negotiable rights in a truly democratic society.

However, the decision of the TJSP, in addition to similar ones, fosters police violence, selective repression, harassment of communicators and the obscurity of police action, violating guarantees intrinsic to a democratic state. Thus, the omission of the justice system in the face of such violations cooperates for their maintenance and perpetuation in Brazil.

In this sense, another emblematic case is the one of the photographer Sérgio Silva, who was also shot in the left eye, while covering the June 2013 demonstrations and still awaiting redress in the justice system. It is worth noting that what happened in Brazil has parallels in other countries in the region, in Chile more than 200 people were victims of serious eye trauma during the wave of protests that took over the country at the end of last year.

In view of this, the undersigned organizations highlight the importance of  Alex da Silveira’s case for guaranteeing fundamental rights, such as right to protest, freedom of expression and freedom of press. It is up to the Federal Supreme Court to correct the serious injustices committed against the photographer so far, safeguarding the individual and collective rights at stake.


  • ARTIGO 19
  • Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (Abraji)
  • Associação para o Progresso das Comunicações (APC)
  • Comitê para Proteção de Jornalistas (CPJ)
  • Conectas Direitos Humanos
  • Derechos Digitales, América Latina
  • Gabinete de Assessoria Jurídica às Organizações Populares ( GAJOP)
  • IFEX
  • Instituto Brasileiro de Ciências Criminais (IBCCRIM)
  • Instituto de Defesa do Direito de Defesa - IDDD
  • Instituto Pro Bono (IPB)
  • Instituto Terra, Trabalho e Cidadania (ITTC)
  • Intervozes - Coletivo Brasil de Comunicação Social
  • Núcleo Especializado de Cidadania e Direitos Humanos da Defensoria Pública do Estado de São Paulo
  • Repórteres sem Fronteiras (RSF)