Here is a case that the Committee to Protect Journalists needs to get up to speed on.
In mid-September, the Folha de S.Paulo decided to send journalist André Caramante and his family to an undisclosed location to ensure his safety.
I read it on Brasilianas: Vanessa Gonçalves of Portal Imprensa reporting. Translation follows.
Among the most difficult and uncomfortable of journalistic beats — especially for daily newspaper reporters — is the police blotter. The subject is an unrewarding one, and reporting on such events mayh often broach topics that end up displeasing one side or another. Not infrequently, it is members of the police who feel “offended” by press coverage, especially when it deals with such topics as abuse of power, unjustified violence and the actions of militias.
Recently, André Caramante of the Folha de S.Paulo, who has covered t his beat for 13 years, became the latest victim of this imbroglio. Some three months ago, the reporter began receiving threats — some veiled, others not so veiled — from Paulo Adriano Lopes Lucinda Telhada, former commander of ROTA and São Paulo city council candidate (PSDB) as well as from his followers and voters..
Caramante says it all began when the former ROTA chief, displeased with an article by the Folha reporter, used his personal page on Facebook to expression his opinion on the matter “We decided to do a story on Paulo Telhada’s personal page, where he calls criminals suspects “bums” and says they really do have to be killed,” the journalist said.
Press was also applied through the Internet, where a number of people copied and pasted Telhada’s words. “A lot of people provided an echo chamber for Telhada’s writings, and added all sorts of commentary, such as “put a bullet in these bums and anyone who defends them.” The reporter defended his conduct as a journalist and affirms that he shows no partisan bias in which he defends police or criminals. I am not here to defend A or B. What I defend is the enfocement of the law.
Since then, Caramante has been unable to work in peace. Any and all stories published to the Folha Web site is bombarded with menacing and offensive commentaries. In an August 7, 2012 story, headlined “Two PMs detained after death of robbery suspect, “a reader comments: “I am not calling down a curse on him. But our experienced reporter is going to find himself the victim of a lightning kidnmapping and will have to call Marcola on his cell phone.”
The situation worsened when the blog “Flit Paralisante,” tied to the military police community, published a photo of Folha editor in chief Sérgio Dávila, identifying the man depicted as Caramante, along with an even more sinister message from ex-judge Ronaldo Tovani, whom Caramante had cited in his story as the accused in a case of money laundering:
“The brutal lies of André Caramante have shown their true face. The photo remains on display on Flit for everyone to see and has been viewed by all, including the military police he critizes and slanders. I just hope that no crazy person steps forward looking to take justice into his own hands when he comes across Caramante.”
Caramante says such actions are nothing more than an attempt to intimidate him and the Folha so that they cannot perform their duty to inform.
Freedom of the Press
When it learned of the threats targeting Caramante, the São Paulo state journalists’ union (SJSP) issued a statement aimed at defending the integrity of the reporter and repudiating the verbal violence, as well as calling on the governor and public safety secretary of São Paulo state to intervene.
The SJSP also asked the Folha to provide full coverage of the case in order to inform the public. As José Augusto Camargo, SJSP president, says, “our union has always advised the reporter subjected to such intimidation to report such behavior publicly in order to protect his own person, because impunity only feeds the aggression.”
In support of Caramante, the union also filed a grievance with various state agencies, including police internal affairs, the state’s attorney and the federal human rights secretariate. In response, state police internal affairs will investigate whether Col. Telhada’s conduct was improper in some way. As of the deadline for this story, the investigation had yielded no conclusions.
In the view of federal deputy Protógenes Pinheiro de Queiroz (PC do B /SP), author of Bill 1,078/11, which federalizes crimes against journalists, the threats against André Caramante should be investigated because they represent a form of press censorship. “Any time a journalist or communicator is threatened, the case should be investigated on a federal level because it represents a threat to democratic freedoms and a gag on popular expression,” said Protógenes.
The Colonel: Denials
In an exclusive interviw with IMPRENSA, Telhada begins by saying that he has no score to settle with the Folha reporter. “I am a peace-loving guy. Someone got to talking about the wrong person, and then did not want to hear the truth,” he said. “I think it cowardly and unprofessional for this journalist to write whatever passes through his mind and then to say he is a victim of threats,” said Telhada
Even so, the colonel — once again using his Facebook account — has expressed his discontent with the journalist’s work. On July 15, 2012, in response to a story headlined “Former ROTA chief becomes politician and preaches violence on Facebook,” the colonel commented, on Facebook. “I find it unbelievable that a newspaper with the reputation of the Folha de S.Paulo should keep persons on their payroll who openly defend crime by treating criminals as suspects or civilians. The people know better than this.” When these words were widely reported, the post was taken down.
On July 15, 2012, in response to a story headlined “Former ROTA chief becomes politician and preaches violence on Facebook,” the colonel commented on Facebook. “I find it unbelievable that a newspaper with the reputation of the Folha de S.Paulo should keep persons on their payroll who openly defend crime by treating criminals as suspects or civilians. The people know better than this.”
The usual rhetoric: “civil rights of defendants are a communist plot!”
When these words were widely reported, the post was taken down.
Although he has never met the colonel personally, Caramante says he has spoken with him on various occasions. “We never met face to face, but we spoke a number of times by telephone; as you can read, I oftenquoted him directly.”
The colonel maintains that he never threatened journalists and that the angry reactions suffered by the paper and its reporter come from persons irritated by criticisms of police.
“I would never do such a thing or incite others to do so. The people was upset with this citizen because of the untruths he is always publishing, and harshly criticized him. I never asked or encouraged anyone to do so. I simply said, ‘If you feel offended, send an e-mail to the Folha de S.Paulo.’ And that is what they did. If anyone threatened or offended him, you can sure it was not me,” he concluded
The fact is that the situation has become unsustainable. In mid-September, the Folha de S.Paulo decided to send journalist André Caramante and his family to an undisclosed location to ensure his safety. Though only temporarily, accusations against the colonel have ceased.