Brazilian journalist receives death threats after newspaper publishes fake interview with him

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  • February 17, 2016

By Giovana Sanchez

Brazilian journalist Leonardo Sakamoto has received dozens of death threats after a fake interview with him was published by a local newspaper in Minas Gerais.

According to a text published by the journalist on his blog, newspaper Edição do Brasil splashed a photo of Sakamoto on the cover of its Jan. 30 issue along with the following statement announcing an interview with the journalist: "Retirees are useless to society.'' Sakamoto said he never talked to the newspaper and never said that phrase.

The journalist, who founded Repórter Brasil, a nonprofit focused on combating slave labor in Brazil, said he believes a 2015 post he wrote about minimum wages and pensions was the origin of the false text.

After the publication of the fake interview in print and on social networks, Sakamoto said he started receiving hate mail, coming from retirees in particular.  Also, according to the journalist, his picture started to circulate on Facebook along with phrases he never said. These images were accompanied by comments from people saying they would kill him. According to Sakamoto, Facebook deleted a few pages that promoted hatred against him, but others remain online.

On Feb. 2, Edição do Brasil issued a statement acknowledging that the interview was not true, claiming that they "analyzed the replies sent and the article in question and believe that there was bad faith on the part of the person who answered, with probable intent to harm both the newspaper and Leonardo Sakamoto."

The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) issued a statement demanding that the 37 threats again Sakamoto be investigated.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.