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A view of the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2018. Offices of a local news outlet were shot at in the southern state of Santa Catarina on July 12. (Reuters/Bruno Kelly)

Offices of local news outlet shot at in southern Brazil

July 16, 2018 5:48 PM ET

Rio de Janeiro, July 16, 2018--Brazilian authorities should immediately investigate a July 12 attack on the offices of local news website VipSocial in the southern state of Santa Catarina and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Shortly before 10 p.m. on July 12, unidentified attackers shot at the building that houses VipSocial's editorial offices in Florianópolis, the capital of Santa Catarina state, according to news reports. The building was empty at the time. VipSocial reporters said the perpetrators left a note that read: "If you continue supporting the wrong side, you will suffer the consequences."

VipSocial, which mainly reports on local news--including local police operations--had published an article July 12 about a police operation that had killed a suspected member of a regional drug trafficking gang, the First Catarinense Group (PGC). They had also later published a profile of the person killed in the operation, detailing his links to organized crime. VipSocial staff told CPJ they believed the attack to be retribution for their coverage of this operation, which had taken place early July 12.

"Brazilian authorities must act immediately to bring those responsible for the attack on the VipSocial office to justice," said Natalie Southwick, CPJ's Central and South America program coordinator, from New York. "Brazilian journalists should be free to investigate issues of public interest without facing violent retaliation, and should not have to fear for their safety in their own workplaces."

"We believe they waited for us to leave, because it was shortly after we had left," Luiz Antônio Paulino Júnior, a reporter who has worked at VipSocial since its founding a decade ago, told CPJ. "[Furthermore] all the shots were from floor to ceiling, from which I understand that they did to not seriously injure anyone. It was a form of retaliation."

Júnior told CPJ that neither VipSocial nor any of its individual reporters had received threats or been attacked prior to this incident. He said that as a result of the attack, one member of his five-person team had already resigned and another had asked not to come into the office for a week because of safety concerns.

Local police investigating the case told CPJ they were unable to comment on the investigation.

In March, an attacker shot at the offices of the independent weekly Jornal dos Bairros in the southern state of Paraná, which borders Santa Catarina.

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