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Newspaper team threatened in Bahia, prevented from leaving area where they were covering a story

(ABRAJI/IFEX) - On 29 December 2008, a reporter and a photographer from the "A Tarde" newspaper were prevented from leaving a hospital parking lot in Simões Filho, a city in the Bahia state countryside. They were blocked by two municipal security guards for over thirty minutes. They went to the hospital to investigate a complaint about the hospital's facilities that was filed by surgeon Rogério Mendes.

While the reporter interviewed a group of nurses and doctors who work at the hospital and confirmed the lack of basic conditions for proper patient care, the photographer took pictures of the hospital's facade. As he was taking the photographs, he was accosted by a security guard who made him display his authorisation to photograph the area. An argument ensued during which the security guard threatened the photographer with a wooden club. The security guard never hit the photographer, but every gate in the parking lot was closed to stop the newspaper's vehicle from leaving.

After they were finally allowed to exit the parking lot, the newspaper crew filed a complaint with police about the incident.

The doctor who originally filed the complaint about the hospital had previously contacted the Federal Road Patrol and the Military Police to warn them about the potential risks faced by possible accident victims if they were to be taken to the hospital.

According to a report published by "A Tarde" on 30 December, the surgeon who filed the complaint was extremely worried because the hospital does not have the most basic medical supplies, including surgical gloves, laboratory services or an X-ray unit. "I went to the Simões Filho Police Station and talked with the deputy sheriff about the possibility of being myself held liable for criminal lawsuits on account of the lack of conditions for proper care during my work shift," the doctor said.

Former mayor Edson Almeida's term in power ended on the first day of the new year and the hospital board of director's responsibility ended at the same time. According to the newspaper report, the hospital personnel mentioned that the situation worsened after the county's election results were made public in October.

Workers from both the hospital and the municipal health department have told ABRAJI that a new hospital board of directors has not yet been appointed.

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