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Two journalists reportedly threatened by former mayor's bodyguard

(ABRAJI/IFEX) - On 23 August 2009, reporters Paula Litaiff and Arlesson Sicsú, from the newspaper "Diário do Amazonas", were reportedly threatened while covering the political convention "Together for Coari", in the city of Coari, Amazonas state. A man who identified himself as a bodyguard for a former Coari mayor threatened the reporters with violence and forced them to leave the area.

Litaiff and Sicsú were at the Ginásio Municipal Geraldo Granjeiro, covering a speech by Vicente Lira, who is running for mayor. According to Litaiff, a man who identified himself as a bodyguard of the impeached ex-mayor Rodrigo Alves approached her and told her they could not stay there. "I said, of course I can, this is a public place, everyone has the right to be here. He responded, 'but you can't stay here, because your newspaper doesn't support us'," Litaiff explained.

The bodyguard, together with other persons present, threatened to punch the journalists and break their equipment if they did not leave the area, according to Litaiff. Hostile statements, such as "they are against Rodrigo (the former mayor) and must be hit," and "if you guys stay one more minute here, everyone is going to hit you," were uttered against the journalists.

The chief of Coari's Civil House, Daniel Maciel, who was at the convention, denies that an assault occurred. "I saw some small animosity, but I did not see an assault nor her being kicked out," he says.

Litaiff says she went to the 10th Regional Police Office of Coari on the same day to file a complaint but there was no official present to register the case. "I went back there on Monday. This time there was no paper . . . I returned in the afternoon, when I was told that the police chief was needed, but that he was on a trip," said the journalist, who finally gave up and did not file a complaint.

Litaiff and Sicsú work in Manaus and were in Coari for a few days, in order to make a report about the city's paradoxes. "Coari is the city in northern Brazil that receives the most royalties from Petrobrás (the Brazilian petrol company). How can 15,000 children be out of school there?" the journalist asked.

Elections will be held in Coari on 22 September, since Alves, the last mayor, was impeached under charges of buying votes. He and another former mayor, Adail Pinheiro, have also been on trial on pedophilia charges.

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