São Paulo, August 18, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned an attack on Brazilian reporter Adenilson Miguel and called on police in the country’s Minas Gerais state to ensure Miguel’s safety and identify those responsible and bring them to justice.
Unidentified attackers around 1 a.m. on August 9 threw fireworks at Miguel’s home in Bandeira do Sul and left a note with a death threat, Miguel told CPJ by phone. The attack occurred several hours after he shared information on WhatsApp groups about alleged corruption inside the mayor’s office.
“Local reporters in Brazil fulfill a vital role in uncovering corruption and keeping their communities informed, and they often face violent retaliation for doing just that,” said CPJ’s Central and South America Coordinator Natalie Southwick from New York. “Authorities in Minas Gerais must act quickly to ensure Adenilson Miguel’s safety and bring those responsible for this attack to justice.”
The mayor’s aide told CPJ that the case was entirely a matter for police and declined to comment further.
Miguel said he believes the attack was meant to stop him from publishing a story about the alleged corruption in Vox, the independent newspaper he writes and publishes.
The paper, which Miguel founded four years ago, comes out twice a month and is distributed in seven towns and cities in the south of Minas Gerais state, one of Brazil’s most populous.
Miguel told CPJ that he planned to publish a story about employees in the mayor’s office being paid for overtime without doing any extra work. The journalist said that he shared pay slips showing the discrepancy in hours on the WhatsApp group on August 8, prior to the attack.
That night Miguel said he heard a series of explosions in his downstairs garage.
“I was scared, there was all this noise, I thought it was a power line exploding,” he told CPJ by phone on August 16. “I went downstairs and there was a lot of smoke and an acrid smell. The police came and they found a piece of paper with a death threat.”
The note said “You are going to die” and included a homophobic slur, the journalist told CPJ.
A police official in Minas Gerais state who declined to give her name or title told CPJ that police had opened an investigation into the attack, but they refused to discuss the case further with CPJ.
The threat is not the first Miguel has received, he told CPJ. In May, a friend warned him the same mayor was angry at him for his political coverage and could take unspecified action.
Miguel said he did not report the May threat to police: “I felt that because they know me it wouldn’t come to anything because this is a small city and everyone knows each other.”
Now, the 33-year old is concerned that a week after the incident nothing has been done.
Miguel on August 16 said that police have not made any arrests.
He said that he is afraid for his safety and plans on temporarily shuttering Vox.
“I avoid going out at night and during the day I don’t go out alone,” he said. “We have no support, with nobody doing anything I feel like a hostage.”