Rio de Janeiro, April 8, 2021 – Brazilian authorities should promptly and thoroughly investigate the threat made to journalist Diego Santos and ensure his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On the morning of April 1, Santos checked the mailbox outside his home in the city of Boa Vista, the capital of the northern state of Roraima, and found an envelope with two bullets inside and a handwritten threat, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, and news reports.
The message, which CPJ reviewed, read, “To Diego Santos. The most accurate way to silence any complaint.”
Santos hosts the daily news show “Verdade no Ar” (“Truth in the Air”) on TV Norte Boa Vista, an affiliate of the privately owned television broadcaster SBT, where he frequently covers crime, policing issues, and alleged corruption, he told CPJ. The program is also broadcast on Facebook.
“Brazilian authorities should promptly and thoroughly investigate the threat made to journalist Diego Santos, ensure his and his family’s safety, and enact effective protective measures to allow him to continue working without fearing for his life,” said CPJ’s Central and South America program coordinator, Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Timely action to identify those responsible for threatening journalists is crucial to prevent escalation into physical violence, and to protect press freedom in Roraima state and across Brazil.”
Santos told CPJ that, after finding the envelope, he went to the TV Norte Boa Vista headquarters, where he described the threat on the broadcaster’s daily news show.
That afternoon, he reported the incident to local police and handed them the letter and the bullets, Santos said, adding that state authorities had not offered him any protective measures.
The Roraima State Communications Office emailed a statement to CPJ today saying that the Civil Police Immediate Response Group was overseeing an investigation into the threat. It said the group was analyzing security video footage from the area surrounding the journalist’s residence and that the material handed to the police was sent for forensic examination.
The statement also said that authorities had not identified the perpetrators of the threat.
“We often have ‘haters’ commenting during our daily broadcast and sending insulting messages to our WhatsApp. But nothing ever threatening like this,” Santos told CPJ.
Santos told CPJ he is also facing civil lawsuits related to his reporting, including from a company he accused of poor labor practices and a government official he criticized for the high death rates in a local hospital, but said that the recent threat was different.
“This type of lawsuit is normal in journalism, and people have the right to reach out to the justice system,” he said. “But a life-threatening message sent to your house, this is complicated. I think not only about myself, but about my family.”
“I know of other colleagues who have been threatened,” Santos said. “We notice that this is recurrent here and it makes me worried. A few months ago, a journalist was kidnapped and, to this day, the police have not arrested anyone. They did nothing.”
In October 2020, journalist Romano dos Anjos was kidnapped and assaulted in Boa Vista, as CPJ documented at the time.