Critical Brazilian journalist injured in shooting

São Paulo, September 30, 2016– Evaldo Oliveira, who owns and writes for the small newspaper Voz das Cidades, was rushed to the hospital on September 26 after being shot by an unidentified assailant, according to news reports and local sources. The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Brazilian authorities to guarantee Oliveira’s safety and ensure that his attackers are brought to justice.

Oliveira, 49, was handing out newspapers in Franco da Rocha, a working class city 26 miles north of the city of São Paulo in the state of the same name, around 7:30 p.m. on Monday when two men stopped alongside him on a motorcycle, according to an eyewitness interviewed on the Brasil Urgente TV program.

The passenger asked Oliveira for a newspaper before pulling a gun and shooting at him. The bullet hit Oliveira’s shoulder, and although the attacker tried to fire another shot, the gun failed to discharge and the pair sped off, the witness said.

Oliveira collapsed and was taken to a hospital where he underwent surgery. CPJ was unable to determine his condition.

“Brazilian journalists covering local issues or working in small cities and rural areas continue to face some of the highest rates of violence in the region,” Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, said from New York. “We urge authorities to swiftly investigate and apprehend those responsible for this attack and to ensure that Evaldo Oliveira can safely do his journalistic work.”

Another witness, who said he worked with Oliveira to distribute newspapers and who identified himself to Brasil Urgente only as Eduardo, said they had been followed by unidentified men as they worked.

“We started handing out papers at around 1:00 in the afternoon, and we started to feel threatened,” he told the news program. “Throughout the afternoon people were filming us.”

An unnamed member of Oliviera’s family was quoted in news reports saying the journalist had been threatened because of his reporting on municipal issues and criticism of local authorities in Franco da Rocha and neighbouring Caieiras, two of the 39 municipalities that make up the São Paulo metropolitan area.

“He was afraid and rarely left the house,” the relative said.

Oliveira’s small paper — sometimes as few as eight pages per issue – usually contains stories of local interest with demands for authorities to tend to municipal affairs, such as paving streets, filling in potholes, and boosting funding for health clinics. Its Facebook page also features anti-drug messages and videos of problems facing the municipality such as muddy roads and open sewers. The paper’s mission statement declares, “Our focus is to tell all.”

Colleagues in the area told CPJ that Oliveira was not a full-time journalist and that his paper appeared only intermittently, usually around elections. The attack comes less than a week before municipal elections for mayor and city council in Franco da Rocha and thousands of other municipalities across Brazil.

“There was no doubt he bothered one political group and that’s why this happened,” a local publisher who knows Oliveira but asked not to be quoted by name for fear of reprisal told CPJ. “It’s not because of what he published this week or last week. It’s a consequence of what he’s published before. In that sense, what happened is predictable.”

Despite some progress in combatting impunity in crimes against journalists, the Brazilian media continue to face grave threats. Last year, Brazil was the deadliest country for the press in the Americas. CPJ research shows that 39 journalists have been killed in the line of duty since 1992, 37 of them murdered in relation to their work. CPJ continues to investigate the motive behind another 10 killings.

[UPDATE: This alert has been updated to reflect the journalist’s name is Evaldo Oliveira.]