A presidential guard walks past a window that allows a view into the Planalto presidential palace's main lounge, decorated with an image of a Brazilian national flag, in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, April 13, 2017. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

Attackers run Brazilian freelance reporter off road and shoot at him

January 9, 2018 3:56 PM ET

São Paulo, January 9, 2018--Brazilian authorities should swiftly and credibly investigate an attack on Gabriel Barbosa da Silva, a part-time freelance reporter, cartoonist, and photographer for the São Paulo publication VerboOnline, and bring his attackers to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Da Silva, who is known by his nickname Binho, was driving home around 2 a.m. on the morning of December 28, 2017, when a silver car ran his motorbike off the BR-116 highway near Embu das Artes, a town in the greater São Paulo area, sending da Silva plunging off a slope, according to an article on VerboOnline and da Silva.

The car then turned around, and at least one of its passengers fired three shots at da Silva and missed, according to the journalist. His ankle broken from the fall, da Silva limped away from the site, and was taken by a passing vehicle to a nearby hospital, the journalist told CPJ.

Recently da Silva has covered a controversial garbage collection tax that the Embu das Artes mayor announced in July 2017, according to news reports.

"Journalists covering local issues or working in smaller cities consistently face some of the highest rates of violence in Brazil," CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said from New York. "Authorities should swiftly investigate the attack against Gabriel Barbosa da Silva, and ensure those responsible are brought to justice."

When CPJ tried to get comment from local civilian police, no one answered the phone.

Although the attack took place on December 28, for security reasons the paper did not report it until January 3, 2018, after da Silva had been released from the hospital.

Da Silva filed a police report but officials have not released the report or any details of their investigation, according to da Silva.

A VerboOnline reporter who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak on the subject said he believed da Silva's coverage of the new tax could have been the motive for the attack.

"Binho has stood out through his writing stories related to the garbage tax," said the reporter. "We write about the garbage tax in an openly political way and that has brought us criticism from the local government."

Hours after the attack, da Silva said he got a Facebook message from an account under the name of Samuel Salve Geral that confirmed the attack was "a message" and said that the journalist would be "shot in the face" the next time. The message, a copy of which was seen by CPJ, warned da Silva to stop being such a big mouth, words he believes indicated someone was unhappy with his reporting.

Prior to the December 28 attack da Silva had not been threatened, he said.

An acquaintance of da Silva received a text message on December 30, 2017, purporting to be from the owner of the vehicle used to carry out the attack, according to an article from VerboOnline.

Da Silva told CPJ he has worked as a part-time contributor for VerboOnline since early 2017, as a photographer and cartoonist, and occasionally conducted interviews for the paper.

The journalist said he previously worked as a freelancer with the left-wing news organizations Midia Ninja and Jornalistas Livres.

Da Silva also works full-time as a local bus conductor.

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