São Paulo, September 25, 2018–Police in the Brazilian state of Ceará must act quickly to bring the gunmen who injured radio owner and commentator Sandoval Braga to justice and ensure the safety of employees at Radio União FM 96.5, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Braga, 62, was shot in the leg on September 21 in what the police described as a “cold and calculated” attempt to stop him speaking out about political issues in and around Jaguaruana, a city of around 32,000 people in northeastern Brazil.
“Local radio stations are crucial sources of information for their communities and help keep their listeners informed about political developments and events that impact their lives,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Authorities in Ceará must act quickly to ensure the safety of Sandoval Braga and his colleagues, and bring those responsible for this attack to justice.”
Two masked raiders barged into the studio’s garage at around 3:40 p.m. as Braga was closing the door, the journalist told CPJ in a telephone interview from his hospital bed. They forced Braga to lie on the ground, while at least two accomplices waited outside in a car.
One of the attackers shot Braga in the leg, and said, “This is so you keep quiet and stop talking garbage on the radio,” Braga said. “They came to send a message,” he said. “If they wanted to kill me they would have.”
Ricardo Romcy, the lead investigator in the case, said witnesses saw the attackers drive by the building in a red Volkswagen Gol G5 several times to ensure the coast was clear.
A radio station employee called an ambulance and Braga was rushed to the hospital where he underwent surgery. The bullet hit his tibia but Braga said that he is recovering well.
“He has never been threatened before,” Lima told CPJ in a telephone conversation. “He is always talking about the local government and political issues and we know this was done for political reasons.”
Police investigating the case agreed with that assessment.
“The attack was cold and calculated,” Romcy told Lima in an interview broadcast on September 22. “The crime was really committed to try and cease with the freedom of press and the freedom of expression of the radio reporter and we can’t accept that under any circumstances.”
Lima said that Radio União, which has about seven employees and broadcasts 24 hours a day, had already abandoned its liberal policy of allowing listeners and visitors easy access to its building. They have hired an armed security guard and are vetting visitors before permitting them entrance.
“We are going to reinforce our security here and our own personal security,” Lima said. “We are all very distressed by what happened. We are all scared and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. But this is our profession. This is our mission and we know the risks.”