Miami (November 8, 2011)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed outrage at the death of a Brazilian cameraman as he was covering a clash between police and drug traffickers holed up in a shantytown, and at the same time condemned an attack on a journalist in Peru and the firebombing of a newspaper in Mexico and another in Argentina, all incidents that it said clearly showed “the risks and reprisals that journalists face in reporting the news.”
“We much regret these terrible events, which confirm what we have been denouncing, that violence is journalists’ main enemy,” declared IAPA President Milton Coleman, senior editor of The Washington Post, Washington, DC.
Gelson Domingos, 46, a cameraman with the Bandeirantes television channel, died on Sunday outside the Antares shantytown in the Rio de Janeiro western suburb of Santa Cruz after being hit by a bullet that tore through his protective vest as he was filming while taking cover behind a police officer who was firing at drug traffickers sheltering there. Journalists in Rio de Janeiro said the vest he was wearing was not adequate to block a bullet shot from the kind of high-powered rifle used by the Army and drug traffickers.
In Peru, Feliciano Gutiérrez Suca, correspondent of the Lima newspaper La República, was shot and wounded on Saturday in Juliaca in the southeastern Peruvian province of Puno as he was heading home and was intercepted by four armed and hooded men. He said he put up a struggle because he feared they were planning to kidnap him. Gutiérrez was recovering in hospital after suffering an injury to his left leg. In early October he had published reports on alleged links by police officers with smuggling activity.
Gustavo Mohme, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, meanwhile condemned the firebombing in recent days of newspapers in Mexico and Agentina.
In Mexico, early on Sunday morning of the plant of the newspaper Buen Tono in Córdoba in the Mexican state of Veracruz was set ablaze. The paper, which specializes in security matters, had begun publishing locally just over a month ago. Some 20 people who were in the building when the attack occurred were unhurt, but the plant was badly damaged.
According to the staff members some 15 assailants arrived at the building shortly after midnight, overpowered the night watchman and broke in, spraying gasoline and setting fire to the newsroom and design, advertising and administrative offices.
Veracruz state has seen an increase recently in violent actions against news media and journalists. On July 26 the body was discovered of reporter Yolanda Ordaz, on June 20 fellow journalist with the newspaper Notiver Miguel Ángel López was murdered along with wife and son. And on June 1 the remains were found of Noel López Olguín, a stringer for the weeklies Horizonte and Noticias de Acayucan and the daily La Verdad. He had gone missing on March 8.
In Argentina, a fire set by unidentified assailants at the Junín, Buenos Aires province, newspaper La Verdad damaged the press and press room’s electric circuitry. The attack occurred after the paper’s editor, Omar Bello, received a number of threats following publication of reports about drug trafficking in the city.
Coleman and Mohme stressed the importance of the seminars on reporting under risk that the IAPA has been offering for more than a decade with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Two of these workshops are to be held between the end of this month and early December in Mexico City and Zacatecas, while several have already been held this year in Brazil. “We are convinced,” they said, “that the risks and reprisals that journalists are exposed to in doing their job mean we have to continue with this kind of work so that news men and women can, without stopping reporting, try to minimize the dangers that they face.”
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.