Rio de Janeiro, July 30, 2020 – Brazilian authorities must promptly and thoroughly investigate the attack on journalist Alex Braga, bring those responsible to justice, and ensure he can work safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Shortly after 9 p.m. on July 23, unidentified men drove a car into Braga’s vehicle while he was driving in the city of Manaus, the capital of the northern state of Amazonas, and then punched and threatened the journalist, according to news reports and CPJ’s phone interviews with Braga and his colleague Laurismar Sampaio, a camera operator, who was also in the vehicle and witnessed the attack.
Braga hosts the nightly news show “Amazonas Diário” on TV Record News, a member of the privately owned Grupo Diário de Comunicação media group, he told CPJ. He said he frequently covers corruption allegations involving local authorities and private companies.
“Brazilian authorities should thoroughly investigate the attack on journalist Alex Braga and the threats against him, and ensure that all those responsible are held to account,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Braga was fortunate to escape unhurt this time, and officials must not allow his attackers to try again. Journalists like Braga perform a vital role ensuring transparency in public expenditures and they must be able to inform the public without risking their lives.”
Braga told CPJ that he began receiving threats about two months ago, just a few days after he started hosting the evening news program. He said a local politician recently called the station and said he would “punch me in the face,” and said a local businessman told a reporter at the broadcaster that he wanted to “shoot me in the head.”
Braga told CPJ he did not want to identify the politician or the businessman, citing fear of retaliation. He said he recently covered alleged corruption in the distribution and use of funds meant to quell the COVID-19 pandemic. Sampaio told CPJ that, due to threats that Braga had received, they were always alert when leaving the TV studio.
On the night of July 23, Braga was driving with Sampaio after leaving work when Sampaio said he thought they were being followed, the journalists told CPJ. A blue car then crashed into the back of their car, and another car stopped right behind it, they said.
After the crash, Sampaio told CPJ he confronted the car that had crashed into them, and two men exited the vehicle after seeing Braga.
“I realized one of them had a gun at his waist and I backed off, so he came up to me and punched me,” Braga told CPJ, adding that the man then said, “You are bothering a lot of people in your program, I’m gonna kill you.”
Sampaio said one of the men told him not to get involved because “the issue is not with you,” and then put his hand on his waist to show he was armed.
Braga said he fled the scene on foot and was not seriously injured in the attack. Sampaio told CPJ that the other unidentified car that stopped observed the entire scene.
Braga told CPJ that he reported the attack to the police that night and gave his testimony to the police a few days later.
“It is quite obvious that this was an attack. And the police haven’t identified anyone [responsible] yet, and this worries me. I’m concerned because if there is another episode, it could be fatal,” Braga said.
The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) shared video footage of the incident on YouTube.
Braga said that video of the attack has also circulated within WhatsApp groups, including footage featuring the text: “this was lesson number one” and “wait for lesson number two.”
The press offices of the Amazonas Secretary of Public Security and the Amazonas state Civil Police both confirmed via email that police have opened an investigation into the attack, but declined to share additional information.
The press adviser of the Amazonas state public prosecutor’s office, Arnoldo Araújo dos Santos, told CPJ via email that the office was not investigating the case and that police are responsible for the investigation.
The press office of the national Ministry of Justice and Public Security, in an email sent by representative Werveson Ferreira, said that the ministry had not received any requests to open a federal investigation into the incident.