Police stand around and a journalist dies while covering a protest in Brazil


The BBC's Chuck Tayman (shirtless) and Wyre Davies, right, help cameraman Andrade Santiago after he was injured during a protest by members of the "Free Pass" movement, in Rio de Janeiro on February 6, 2014.


Andre Mourao/Agencia O Dia, Reuters

Today I went to the funeral of a man I didn't know.

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

So starts a moving essay by the BBC’s Wyre Davies. He was covering a protest in Brazil when a flare exploded behind the head of photojournalist Santiago Andrade. Davies immediately went from journalist to first responder.

“We were with him in about four seconds,” he recalls.

He and his cameraman, Chuck Tayman, treated Andrade’s injuries as police stood around. Ultimately, Andrade's wounds were too severe. He didn’t survive — though he lingered in a coma for a few days.

Davies says Andrade’s death highlights the difficulties journalists face while reporting in Brazil. It’s a country where protests go from peaceful to violent quickly. And journalists can get caught-up in the battle.

This particular protest was part of an ongoing protest over public transportation fares. It’s part of the so-called “Free Pass” movement. And it took place at the central train station. Davies says a group of protesters called the “Black Blocs” were destroying ticketing machines.

But Davies says both sides are to blame.

He says the police and military police do little to contain the protests. In this instance, the police fired tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd as hundreds of commuters were heading home from work about 7 p.m.

“There’s no real subtle approach,” he notes.

Davies thinks these problems could intensify as the World Cup draws near. People are upset over the staggering amount of money being spent on stadiums to host the games. The people feel like the average needs of the citizens are being forgotten in favor of the needs of soccer fans around the world. And these people will not voice their concerns quietly.

“They don’t see the promised infrastructure benefits,” he says. “The promised public transit systems that were supposed to go along with the stadiums have largely been dropped."

These elements, combined with a different view of journalism, make the situation tough for journalists.

Here in Latin America, where journalists are often in danger of becoming targets, rather than being allowed to operate unhindered as independent observers, the concept of legal rights for media professionals is not entrenched, he wrote.

It’s something he didn’t prepare for coming to Brazil, even though he's used to tough situations from reporting on the Arab Spring in Libya.

“I never really expected the same level of intensity when it comes to violence,” he says.  

Davies closes his essay by saying that, while dangerous, it’s also a fascinating time to work as a journalist in Brazil.

It’s something, he writes, that he would have loved to talk about with Andrade.