In Brazil, attacker fires at political blogger’s car

Political blogger Márcio Prado was at his home in Rio Grande da Serra, one of the municipalities that ring Brazil’s biggest city São Paulo, in the early hours of April 1, 2017, when he heard gunshots, he told CPJ in a telephone interview. The blogger said he went downstairs to see what was going on but the streets in front and behind his house were empty and he did not see where the shots came from or who or what the attacker might be shooting at.

Prado said it was only the next morning that he noticed his Ford Fiesta, which was parked in front of his home, had been hit. “It was clearly a direct attack, with five bullets fired, all of which hit the back of the vehicle,” Prado wrote in a statement sent to journalists and published on his blog shortly after the attack. The blogger said he reported the incident, which happened at around 12.20 a.m., to police.

A police clerk in Rio Grande da Serra told CPJ on April 4, 2017, that so far no suspects have been identified and no arrests made.

Prado runs and writes Blog Márcio Peninha: Jornalismo Sério, (Serious Journalism) along with a colleague, who CPJ has not named for security reasons. Prado previously wrote for a string of papers based in and around the same region south-east of São Paulo. The blog focuses on local politics and corruption and has recently covered stories including a lack of transparency in municipal government contracts and politicians awarding themselves pay raises. It has encouraged readers to sign a petition calling for improved policing and reported on alleged domestic abuse in a marriage of local politicians.

Prado said he has been previously threatened for his work and received as many as 20 threats in the past decade, some while working for newspapers and others during his time producing the blog. The threats came both explicitly, from people telling him enemies he had angered in print were out to get him, or implicitly, from those warning him they were worried about his safety and that he should take care to protect himself, Prado told CPJ.

“There are dozens of other stories that have been published in this space that hit powerful people and people in politics who, for different reasons, at one point or another, threatened the work of a free press, either directly or through intermediaries, with the same attempt to obstruct citizens’ rights to stay informed,” he wrote in his statement.

Prado told CPJ he registered the April 1 attack with police but did not register any of the previous threats because police reports are public and he did not want personal information, such as his address, to be available online.

Prado said that a source inside the police, who he did not identify but who heard his complaints, warned him death squads have been offered 25,000 reais ($8,020) to kill him and his colleague. He said police did not specify what action they are taking to investigate or protect him.

The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalists (ABRAJI) condemned the April 1 attack and said it highlighted the precarious conditions that many Brazilian reporters face. “The insecurity could lead Márcio Prado to do exactly what the attackers hope: stop investigating and bringing relevant information to society’s attention,” Abraji said in a statement.