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Journalists Maria Manso and Ronaldo de Sousa harassed, prevented from covering collapse of church roof

(ABRAJI/IFEX) - On 18 January 2009, newspaper teams were prevented by church members from approaching the main building of the international Renascer em Cristo (Reborn in Christ) Church, located in São Paulo, soon after the building's roof caved in. Nine people died and 114 were wounded as a result of the collapse of the roof.

According to the Record TV Network's press department, church members were aggressive towards their reporter, Marcelo Bittencourt, and attempted to stop him from filming at the site.

Reporter Maria Manso and cameraman Ronaldo de Sousa, of the Globo TV Network, were both physically abused by a group of people who joined hands to make a barrier to stop them from reaching the site of the collapse, according to a media release by the Central Globo communications department.

The TV Band press department said that the attitude towards the press was generally one of animosity but that none of their staff members were physically threatened.

The Renascer Church's press department confirmed that there had been some hostility directed at media personnel and said that the church's president, Federal Representative Geraldo Tenuta Filho, of the Democrats party, issued a public apology for the incident and begged journalists to understand that the tragedy had been very stressful for the congregation.

In an official release, the National Newspaper Association condemned the harassment and aggressive actions against the media personnel who were trying to cover the story of the collapse of the Renascer Church's roof. Their note states, "It is unacceptable that journalists, in the normal exercise of their accepted role of informing the public, should be the target of violence and arbitrary actions by people who self-appoint themselves as security guards and establish a barrier around the area where the accident happened."

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