Rio de Janeiro, October 29, 2020 — Brazilian authorities must promptly and thoroughly investigate the kidnapping of journalist Romano dos Anjos, bring those responsible to justice, and ensure he can work safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On October 26, at about 8:30 p.m., three unidentified men broke into dos Anjos’ home in the northern city of Boa Vista, in Roraima state, while he was having dinner with his wife, tied her up and kidnapped him, using his car to drive away, according to news reports.
Later that night, local authorities found the car burned and abandoned alongside the BR-174 road, according to those reports. The next morning a passerby found dos Anjos in Bom Intento, an area on the rural outskirts of Boa Vista, according to news reports.
Dos Anjos had been left at the scene the previous night, tied up and blindfolded, and had injuries to his legs, as well as one broken arm and the other dislocated, according to those reports.
Dos Anjos hosts the daily news show “Mete Bronca” on TV Imperial, an affiliate of the privately owned national broadcaster TV Record, where he covers corruption, local crime, and policing issues, according to Leiliane Matos de Oliveira, the director of journalism for TV Imperial, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview. She told CPJ he hosts a similar show on Radio Equatorial, a local radio station owned by the same media group.
“Brazilian authorities should ensure a prompt and thorough investigation into the brutal kidnapping of journalist Romano dos Anjos, determine if it was linked to his reporting, and bring those responsible to justice,” said CPJ’s Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Dos Anjos was fortunate to escape with his life. If authorities allow those responsible for this attack to go unpunished, it sends a chilling message to journalists in Roraima state that they are not safe, even in their own homes.”
After the attackers took dos Anjos from the home, his wife Nattacha Vasconcelos, who hosts a daily entertainment show on TV Imperial, untied herself and sought help from her neighbors, according to Oliveira. Both the police and representatives of TV Imperial went to the journalists’ home that night and the broadcaster launched a campaign online and on TV to help search for the journalist, Oliveira said.
Oliveira told CPJ that she was not aware of any threats to dos Anjos prior to the kidnapping, but said it was possible the attack could be in retaliation for the journalist’s reporting on corruption.
“He has very strong opinions when he has evidence. In the last days, he had been denouncing irregularities in the [local government’s] use of COVID-19 pandemic resources,” she told CPJ.
The Roraima Civil Police told reporters that the kidnapping could have been orchestrated by a criminal group, but said they had not ruled out political or other motives, according to news reports.
Adriana Cruz, the president of the Roraima Journalists Union, a local journalists’ association, told CPJ in a phone interview that “it is too soon to be sure about the motivation, only the investigation can tell, which is why we are asking for a thorough investigation.”
CPJ emailed the Roraima state civil police, the public security secretary, and communications secretary requesting comment, but did not receive any responses.