Rio de Janeiro, December 23, 2020 – Brazilian authorities must promptly and thoroughly investigate threats to radio journalist Marco Antônio Ferreira and the burning of his car, and determine if they were related to his reporting, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Around 3:30 a.m. on December 12, Ferreira, a host at the privately-owned broadcaster Rádio Nova Brasil where he goes by the name “Marco Serelepe,” woke up at home in the city of Araçatuba, in Brazil’s southern São Paulo state, and found his car in flames in his garage, according to Ferreira, who spoke with CPJ via phone, and news reports.
Ferreira said that about a month prior on November 15, during the Araçatuba municipal elections, he received threatening voice messages on WhatsApp. In the messages, which CPJ reviewed, a man can be heard saying “I’ll find you and I’ll break your face.” Ferreira said he believed the threats were related to his reporting on the elections, as he said the man told him he didn’t like the journalist “talking about his candidate.”
“Brazilian authorities should thoroughly investigate how Marco Antônio Ferreira’s car went up in flames at his home, as well as previous threats to the radio journalist,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Brazil’s local radio reporters are a key source of information for their communities, especially during elections, and they must be able to fulfill that role without risking their lives.”
Ferreira told CPJ that police came to his home to investigate the burned vehicle and that he had provided the police with the threatening voicemail messages. He also told CPJ that he alerted police about a series of messages posted on Facebook and WhatsApp groups calling Ferreira, among other things, a “shitty radio journalist” and using the hashtag #shutupserelepe. The social media groups, Ferreira said, are run by DJs who were upset by his reporting on parties held in violation of COVID-19 restrictions.
In a statement sent to CPJ via email by press officer Bárbara Zaghi, the São Paulo State Public Security Secretary said that the General Investigations Police Unit in Araçatuba is investigating Ferreira’s case, and that law enforcement is waiting for the results of a forensic report. Zaghi did not specify which of the incidents concerning Ferreira the unit is investigating. CPJ did not receive a response to emails to the São Paulo state civil police seeking comment.
Ferreira told CPJ he has worked as a radio journalist with several other local broadcasters since 1998. On his program, “Nova Manhã Araçatuba,” he covers general news about the city, such as politics, crime, and policing.