Rene Silva and Renato Moura held while reporting from Alemo favela, as activists are attacked by officers using teargas
Brazilian police have arrested a prominent community journalist in the Alemo favela complex of Rio de Janeiro, underlining the authorities often weak respect for media freedom, particularly when it comes to coverage of poor neighbourhoods.
Rene Silva, the founder of Voz da Comunidades (Community Voice), was detained alongside a photographer, Renato Moura, on Saturday night as they attempted to report on the forced relocation of residents who had reoccupied their demolished homes in the Skol community.
Police first seized Moura to prevent him from taking pictures of the evictions. Silva used his mobile phone to live-broadcast what was happening, until he was handcuffed, pepper-sprayed and taken to the police station where he was charged with contempt of authority and trespass.
When other community activists attempted to record what was happening, they too came under assault from police using teargas and rubber bullets. Video of the start of the incident shows police harassing the journalist and knocking a phone from his hand.
Silva said he had only been doing his job. The police wanted to prevent our access. They didnt want to let us get there. We insisted, we explained we were media, but they didnt want to allow it, he told the Guardian.
Another reporter, Raul Santiago, from the Papo Reto Collective, noted that such intimidation was common and called on the police to stop their repression of independent voices.
Community journalists have reported from the frontline of the conflict between police and gang members a conflict that has resulted in the deaths of numerous residents, often at the hands of the authorities.
Silva became one of their best-known figures when he live-tweeted a huge military and police operation to pacify the Alemo favela in 2010.
Media freedom organisations called on the authorities to respect freedom of expression. All journalists must be allowed to report freely on sensitive topics without fear of retribution, said Andrew Downie, Brazil representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists. The CPJ has consistently called on authorities to put an end to these kind of procedures by law enforcement officers
In addition to ensuring the rule of law, a key part of policing is guaranteeing the safety of all members of the media covering public protests.
Brazil has long been one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, environmentalists and social activists. According to the CPJ, attacks on the press have increased in the past year as a result of increasing political polarisation.