Freedom of Expression

Press Release R119/11








Washington D.C., November 10, 2011 — The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) deeply regrets the death of Brazilian cameraman Gelson Domingos da Silva, which took place in Rio de Janeiro last Sunday.


According to the information received, Gelson Domingos da Silva, of TV Bandeirantes, was hit by a bullet while he was covering a police operation against drug traffickers in the Antares slum in Santa Cruz, Rio de Janeiro. The cameraman, who was wearing a bulletproof vest and located himself behind one of the participating police officers, was hit in the chest while he was filming a violent shooting.  The shot presumably came from one of the individuals being pursued by the police and apparently perforated the bulletproof vest Domingos da Silva was wearing.  Even though he received prompt assistance, the cameraman died before arriving at a medical facility.  According to the information received, reporters and police were attacked in an area that had been declared safe minutes before.  In addition, the Office of the Special Rapporteur was informed of the efforts made by police to assist the wounded cameraman and to protect the rest of the reporters, who were covering an extremely dangerous situation. The authorities captured several suspects and are now investigating to determine who killed Domingos da Silva.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur deems it essential that journalists who cover public security issues be adequately protected and trained to adopt the necessary measures to prevent these kinds of events. The role of the press in such circumstances is of great importance to society and to the authorities themselves; for this reason, it is fundamental that in situations where the safety, well-being or lives of media workers might be threatened, appropriate training and protection be provided by the State and by the media companies for which the journalists work. The Office of the Special Rapporteur expects a thorough investigation to be conducted to identify, capture, bring to trial and sanction those responsible for the death.


The ninth principle of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression  states: "The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."