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Journalist assaulted by city council president in Caxias

(ABRAJI/IFEX) - On 2 March 2010, at approximately 7:40 p.m., reporter Ricardo Rodrigues, of TV Band Caxias, in the state of Maranhão, was assaulted by Caxias City Council President Antônio Luís. The assault was recorded on video and has had national repercussions after the video was disseminated by the "Brasil Urgente" programme.

The assault took place soon after the end of a council session. "The audience was complaining about the queues at public health centres and I asked what he, as a doctor and president of the council, was doing about the situation," Rodrigues said. The reporter explained that his programme, "Caxias em Opinião" (Caxias Opinion), involves the participation of the public.

When the city council president demonstrated his reluctance to answer the question, Rodrigues persisted, saying, "But citizens have been complaining." The council president then punched the journalist, who fell on his camera operator, causing the video footage to be out of focus.

After the incident, Rodrigues went to the Caxias' Police Department to press charges. "I received a bruise on the left side of my face," he said. The journalist has filed a lawsuit. A hearing in the case is scheduled for 5 May.

"It was a punch in the face to society, both to the residents of this city as well as the citizens of Brazil," Rodrigues said.

According to Rodrigues, the next day's council session approved restrictions on the presence of reporters. "I have unconfirmed information that I will not receive a media pass," he said. The journalist reported that the programme's staff had already been kept from entering the city council chambers, but were finally allowed to do so after filing a complaint with the police. Rodrigues said that, in the same council session, the restrictions were lifted and the council president apologised to the city's residents for the incident but not to the reporter himself.

The council president did not answer calls from ABRAJI.

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