Gelson Domingos da Silva, a cameraman with the radio and TV group Rede Bandeirantes, home of the television station of the same name, was fatally wounded yesterday while he was covering a police operation in the Antares favela, in the west of Rio de Janeiro.
Since the beginning of this year, five journalists have been killed in Brazil, as a direct or probable result of their profession.
“We express our sincerest condolences to the family and colleagues of Gelson Domingos, whose death reminds us that the most dangerous places for journalists are not necessarily in those countries where war has been declared,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The questions raised by this tragedy are directed as much to the media themselves as to the authorities, in particular the degree of protection afforded to journalists covering this type of operation,” the press freedom organization added.
“Fundamentally, the problem arises of media interest and its consequences in dramatic police operations, which are increasingly frequent in Brazil with the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games on the horizon.
“Security policy feeds on media coverage and this dependence is fraught with risks for journalists working in the favelas, where some of them also live. The security of all concerned – journalists, witnesses and residents – takes priority over a results-based culture or a drive for image.”
The deployment of 80 crack military policemen, primarily the noted Special Operations Battalion, led to a fierce exchange of gunfire with drug traffickers in the Antares favela yesterday. Security forces said nine alleged gang members had been arrested and four killed, and a large quantity of drugs and weapons seized.
Domingos, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest, was fatally shot in the chest. The 46-year-old cameraman had three children and two grandchildren.
“We hope an inquiry will establish as soon as possible who fired the fatal shot,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“In common with organizations such as the Rio journalists’ union, we hope that lessons will be learned from this tragedy and a genuine debate is held on the professional risks and the coverage of organised crime,” the organization concluded.