The STF (Supreme Federal Court) ruled on Thursday (10) that the State should be held responsible for journalists who are injured while covering public demonstrations.
10-1, the ministers voted to recognize photographer Alex Silveira’s right to receive compensation for being hit in the left eye by a rubber bullet fired by a São Paulo military policeman.
The injury occurred when the professional was covering for the Folha newspaper Agora, a protest by civil servants on Avenida Paulista, in 2000. The injury left the photographer with only 15% of vision in the eye.
The case was judged by the Supreme in an appeal with general repercussion, which means that the understanding established in this process will be valid for all similar actions in progress in the Judiciary. The magistrates, however, have not yet defined which legal thesis they will establish for it to be applied by the other bodies of Justice.
In the specific case, in the first instance, the photographer won a victory and had the right to be indemnified in 100 minimum wages recognized. In second degree, the 1st Chamber of Public Law of the TJ-SP recognized that the professional was not one of the protesters, but stated that the fault for being hit by the rubber bullet was his own.
The collegiate understood that, as Alex remained at the scene of the riot and did not withdraw from there after the conflict took on aggressive proportions and at risk to his physical integrity, the blame for the episode is his own.
The ministers of the Supreme, however, criticized the position of the TJ-SP. Carmen Lúcia stated that “it is almost bizarre” to blame the photographer for having been shot. Minister Marco Aurélio, in turn, said that the TJ-SP “violated the right to professional practice, based on the exclusive guilt of the victim”.
The magistrate said that, “by assigning to the victim, who did nothing but observe the faithful fulfillment of the mission to inform, the responsibility for the damage, the Court of Justice endorsed the disproportionate action of the security forces during popular events.”
Luís Roberto Barroso, in turn, stated that journalistic coverage of a demonstration is in the public interest and, therefore, it is the State’s duty to protect these professionals.
“The journalist was not there taking the risk in his own name, he was there taking the risk for the public interest. And we are all interested in knowing what is happening in a demonstration,” he said.
Alexandre de Moraes followed the same line and stated that there is no element in the case file that points to the exclusive guilt of the victim for having been shot by the police. “It is unreasonable to require media professionals to stop covering protests. We would be restricting the exercise of press freedom”.
For Moraes, in this scenario, the Supreme would be providing incomplete, inaccurate and wrong news. “Is there a risk? There is. But the risk is greater if the Judiciary Branch understands that news coverage has no protection,” he said.
The fact that the Supreme Court’s judgment involved a threat to press activity in the country led organizations that defend journalism and freedom of expression to join the process.
Given the relevance of the matter, Abraji (Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism) and Artigo 19, an international organization for the defense of human rights, asked the STF to be heard in the cause as interested parties, a condition that in the technical language of law is called amicus curae.
The resumption of the trial also mobilized organizations that work in defense of journalism and human rights.
An open letter addressed to the ministers stated that the trial would be a crucial moment to correct “a serious injustice that marks one of the most emblematic episodes of violence against communicators in the context of protests in the country”.
Now living in the city of Rio Grande, in Rio Grande do Sul, Alex studies oceanology at FURG (Federal University of Rio Grande) and, despite the severe restrictions caused by the injury to the eye, carries out some types of photography work, mainly in the field of photography. environment.
This Thursday, the only one to disagree was minister Kassio Nunes Marques. For him, the Supreme should not recognize a generic right for journalists in cases of coverage of public demonstrations.
“What cannot be, under the argument of press freedom, is to institute the abstract rule that the victim, just because he is a journalist, will never contribute to the harmful event”, he said.
The magistrate stated that it is necessary to take into account that there are cases of journalists who take risks recklessly and contravene safety standards. “In other words, society would pay for the grave risk he voluntarily assumed.”
Rapporteur of the process, Marco Aurélio suggested the establishment of the following thesis: “Violates the right to professional practice, the right and duty to inform, a conclusion on the exclusive fault of a press professional who, when covering a public manifestation, is injured by security force agent”.
Edson Fachin, in turn, made a more summarized suggestion: “The State is civilly responsible for the damage to a press professional who was injured in a situation of riot during journalistic coverage.”