RIO DE JANEIRO — Authorities in the northern Brazilian state of Rondônia must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the shooting attack on Rondoniaovivo’s headquarters and adopt all necessary measures to ensure the outlet’s staff can report safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
Around 3:40 a.m. on Saturday, November 12, an unidentified man shot multiple times at the headquarters of privately owned news website Rondoniaovivo in the city of Porto Velho, Rondônia’s capital, according to several news reports, the outlet’s news director Ivan Frazão, and owner Paulo Andreoli, who spoke to CPJ in separate phone interviews.
The shots hit and broke the front door and windows, but no one was hurt because the building was empty at the time, according to the Rondoniaovivo report, a security camera video, Frazão, and Andreoli.
Andreoli and Frazão told CPJ they believe the attack was retaliation for the outlet’s critical coverage of protests in Rondônia in support of President Jair Bolsonaro, who lost his reelection bid on October 30. Andreoli said that in recent days, several offensive comments were posted on Rondoniaovivo’s website, but that they had not received any specific direct threats.
“Authorities in Rondônia must immediately investigate the violent attack on the Rondoniaovivo headquarters, bring the perpetrators to account, and adopt all necessary measures to ensure the outlet’s journalists can continue to report safely,” said Natalie Southwick, CPJ’s Latin America and Caribbean program coordinator, in New York. “The concerning pattern of ongoing harassment and intimidation of journalists covering protests by Bolsonaro supporters across Brazil poses a threat to journalists’ safety and press freedom.”
Andreoli said that military police officers arrived on site around 6 a.m. on Saturday, November 12, and that he delivered all footage from security cameras to the Civil Police, but that as of Wednesday, November 16, authorities had not provided him with an update on the investigation.
“This was politically motivated. It was a message. ‘Pistolagem’ (professional hitmen or gunslingers) exists in Rondônia,” Andreoli said. “But we are not going to stop. Our journalism will continue. More carefully, but it will continue.”
Rondoniaovivo, which was founded 18 years ago, covers topics including general news, security, and policing, and is one of the main local news outlets in the state, Frazão said.
The press office of the Rondônia state security and defense secretary said in an email to CPJ that military police officers arrived at the scene at 6:39 a.m. on Saturday, November 12, found the Rondoniaovivo headquarters full of marks from the bullets and 20 projectile casings at the scene. The email also stated that the investigations are ongoing and that police have “identified a person suspected of carrying out the shooting, but still need to confirm this with other evidence.”
According to a November 10 joint statement by 14 civil society organizations, there were at least 40 incidents of attacks or harassment against journalists covering the pro-Bolsonaro protests following the second-round presidential election on October 30.