Filming under fire - the perils of documenting truth in Brazil

Santiago Andrade Santiago Andrade worked for the Brazilian "Bandeirantes" network

Related Stories

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

But everything I've heard and read about Santiago Andrade in the last few days makes me wish I had known him and had been able to spend more time with him.

As it was, the brief few minutes our paths crossed in a Rio de Janeiro plaza last week were chaotic, messy and ultimately futile. For perhaps another hour and a half, I remained with the 49-year-old father of four at a city centre hospital as doctors fought to save him.

Santiago Andrade never left the hospital alive.

It has been exactly a week since the photojournalist for the Brazilian "Bandeirantes" television network collapsed to the floor as a flare or firework-type device exploded just behind his head as he was covering the latest in a series of anti-government protests in Rio.

Less than four seconds later, my BBC colleague, Keith "Chuck" Tayman and I were at his side.

Before arriving in Brazil some five months ago, I had spent the last three years based in the Middle East covering, among other events, the often-traumatic Arab uprisings. In Egypt, Gaza and Libya I witnessed some shocking and emotionally distressing scenes and saw, far too frequently, the terrible consequences of conflict.

So when I knelt down beside Santiago's big, prone body, I wasn't in any way frozen or unsure what to do, even though his injuries were appalling. The explosion had left a sizeable wound in his head from which blood was already starting to pour.

All BBC staff who work in conflict zones are given regular "hostile environment" training - the most invaluable part of which is without doubt a comprehensive first aid element. Having also previously worked as a mountain/expedition guide, it is training I have used on many occasions.


In the absence of a first-aid kit or heavy-duty bandages to hand, Chuck instinctively tore off his t-shirt and pressed it hard on Santiago's head wound to stem the flow of blood. And, although unconscious, Santiago was breathing quite heavily. Amid the chaos, we did our best to stabilise him.

Santiago Andrade is hit by a flare A protester has now been on arrested on suspicion of launching the object that killed Mr Andrade

I have seen many victims of violence left lying on their backs, police or bystanders unwilling or unable to help as critical moments slip by.

By the time professional medical help arrives, it is often too late; the victim may have died through blood loss, heart failure or simply because basic checks to monitor their breathing weren't made.

Santiago's injuries were so serious we knew we had to get him to hospital, but some of the police were being obstructive - perhaps not realising the gravity of the situation - and many protesters were berating and screaming at the security forces, blaming them for the attack. It has since been shown that, almost without doubt, the flare was thrown by one of two protesters later identified in television footage.

While treating Santiago on the floor, we also had to "take control" of the situation. Repeatedly impressing on police the urgency of the moment, we carefully carried the 13-stone (82kg; 182lb), limp body into the back of a police car and sped off to a nearby hospital.

It seemed like an age but from the moment I saw Santiago drop his camera and fall to the floor, to that screeching journey to hospital against the flow of traffic down Rio's main avenue, took just six minutes.

Chuck and I had hoped it would be enough time to help save Santiago Andrade's life.

Moving tribute

Knowing it would probably be the last time she would see her father alive, Vanessa Andrade also spent some time with him this week at his hospital bedside.

Writing from the heart but with the clear head of someone who wants to say the right things and remember precious moments, the 29-year-old later wrote on her Facebook page about her dad and her last "conversation" with him.

Santiago Andrade just after he was hit by a flare Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Mr Andrade's death had caused "revulsion and was saddening"

"He taught me many things, that people from a humble background must work twice as hard to make it in life," said Vanessa, who has continued her father's vocation as a media professional.

In an incredibly moving tribute, she continued, "Tonight I said goodbye, just me and him. With my head on his shoulder we talked about many things. I asked forgiveness for my shortcomings …. I know he's okay. Of course he is. And I am the continuation of his life."

In an often brutal and polarised society, many of Santiago's colleagues described him as a big but gentle man who hated violence and did all he could to avoid confrontation.

At his well-attended wake and funeral today in a Rio suburb, colleagues from Band News and dozens of other Brazilian journalists remembered a man who had worked to minimise the threats posed to media professionals.

Threat of violence

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.

According to recently released figures more media workers were killed in Brazil than anywhere else in the region, even Mexico where reporters are frequently intimidated and have been forced to work anonymously.

"In Brazil, journalists work under a widespread threat of violence and major police crackdowns," said the 2014 World Press Freedom Index, which was released earlier this week.

It's a learning curve for journalists too. Remaining dispassionate observers of complicated and traumatic events is the best way to make sure the whole picture is seen.

Sadly, even in the days since Santiago died, some parts of the Brazilian media are in danger of being unwittingly used and manipulated by political forces to demonise the whole protest movement, not just the few mindless individuals who are bent on violence and confrontation.

These are dangerous but also fascinating days to be a journalist in Brazil, things I would dearly have loved to have talked about with a man committed to his job and his family.

Wyre Davies Article written by Wyre Davies Wyre Davies Rio de Janeiro correspondent

Moment of Truth for Brazil's military past

Brazil releases its report on human rights abuses carried out under military rule.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Only for brave cameramen & news journalists we'd be left news-less. They have a job to do & they do it courageously in the most dangerous of places & events. & now this cameraman's death is news because of how horrific his death was (serious head-injury) & because he was a good human being by all accounts. As for soldiers (good human beings also) dying in war circumstances goes with the job.


  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Well, we are living in country ( BRAZIL ) very and very to much violent.
    Poor,and a level of corruption to much high.
    The peolples are violents, very armed robbery. It`s a horror.
    The Dilma's government is the most corrupt in history.
    I do not want the World Cup football here.
    will be a shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.


  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Chris J @22
    Rushdie's people were trained for the job. Their ethos (in theory) was, you take the bullet meant for the client. This is NOT the job of soldiers. A battlefield is about the most dangerous place known to man and a week-long 'hostile environment' course is no preparation. Many (no, most) journos are a massive liability under fire and, despite all the hype, they just shouldn't be there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    " How many times have we seen cameras pointed at people suffering grievously in disaster areas and reporters jabbering nonsense rather than helping them and also consuming scarce resources which needed for aid."

    Foreign aid is given as a result of pressure being brought to bear on politicians by an informed public. FWIW Live Aid happened because Michael Burke reported on Ethiopia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    So why is this death more important than any other - absolutely nothing. It is basically a reflection of the inflated view that some journalists (and media) take of their own importance. How many times have we seen cameras pointed at people suffering grievously in disaster areas and reporters jabbering nonsense rather than helping them and also consuming scarce resources which needed for aid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    "What IS worse is when soldiers risk their lives protecting a news person just so a news story can be made."

    This is too general a statement. No reasonable person wants anyone to kill for frivolous reasons and no one wants anyone to BE killed for frivolous reasons.

    A soldier dying to protect a journalist is no different, in essence, to a Special Branch officer dying to protect Salman Rushdie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Quite right, Exc @18. A journalist's death is no different from any other. Your 2nd para is correct, too. Having worked on both sides of that particular divide (and lost many good friends in the process) I would add that for a cameraman to be the cause of his escort's death is almost unforgivable.

    JS46 @17, do you *seriously* believe fireworks are remotely comparable to, say, machine-gun fire?!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    These men and women go into killing fields to report events.For that I commend you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    #18 Exc
    "What IS worse is when soldiers risk their lives protecting a news person just so a news story can be made.."
    Cameramen put their lives on the line so that the likes of you and I can be kept informed of world events as we and the rest of the world demand. Cameramen are the bravest of the brave they expect and receive very little recognition for their exploits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Sad to see anyone die in this manner, but I don't think it is worse because it was a news person.

    What IS worse is when soldiers risk their lives protecting a news person just so a news story can be made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Somewhat pedantic to dispute that he was under fire. He was struck by fireworks.
    It is not true that it would have been enough to read about the demonstration rather than see it: Kenji Nagai helped oust the military in Burma.
    In this case, it was the video of other courageous photographers (who were not reporting from 5* hotels) that identified that the fire did not come from police.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Perhaps, God needed him more for his daring. RIP Santiago!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15., Network for Freelance Photojournalists, has reported arrest in Santiago Andrade's Death. Caio Silva de Souz, 23, stands accused of shooting flair that struck & killed Santiago Andrade.
    Of course, nothing will bring back him back, but Andrade's death should hold a candle to the dark corners of all media manipulation & enlighten honest, courageous journalism everywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    A powerful article once again showing the hazards of committed journalists. Thank you for sharing this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    #4 & 5 Utter naivety. Reporters all tell the story with some degree of bias. They do so not because they're martyrs but because they're highly paid & enjoy the travel & excitement. They put themselves at unnecessary risk to get the most exciting shots & the chance of a Pulitzer prize.

    This tragic death could have been avoided if Mr Andrade hadn't been between the police & the protesters

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    We know what a riot looks like. So there is no need to take these sort of risks.

    The problem is caused by 24 hour news feeds that must have the 'latest pictures from the scene'. They have an insatiable appetite for footage as they believe that anything over an hour old damages their image as a '24 hour news channel'.

    People just need to be told the news. They don't need to see it happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Searching for one of the handful of stories that allows comments. What about this one was it a police car or not?? You have a duty to investigate news, not just regurgitate police smokescreens. Do your job properly and end the selective ability of people to comment on stories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The roll call of journalists killed while covering the news continues to grow. The latest victim may have been unlucky but as a camera man he had to be there. It’s not possible to produce images while sitting in a bedroom.
    In war or civil protest the photographer needs to be at the heart of the action.
    We should all mourn his passing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    @4 Serwind
    News reporters do NOT risk their lives "daily". Don't be silly. If they did they would have very short careers. Nor are they a "unique band" - there are plenty of riskier trades, which also require great "professionalism".

    @5 Boileroom. "for the benefit of others"? Oh please, what martyrs! They do it because they enjoy it.

    Do you two work for the BBC by any chance? It sounds like it.


Page 1 of 2



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.