Newsroom threatened in Brazil after criticizing police promotions

Reporters for Gazeta da Povo, the newspaper of record in Paraná state, Brazil, were threatened with a supposed attack, according to reports from the publication. On Monday, Dec. 17, the newsroom and the management of the newspaper received threatening telephone calls warning about a possible attack.

The threats took place after the newspaper published a series of reports denouncing the state police. Gazeta do Povo received the calls the same day the print edition of the newspaper published cases of police officers who allegedly received promotions while under investigation or facing disciplinary measures, a practice prohibited by the department, according to the website Terra.

Among the journalists threatened was Mauri König, director of the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji in Portuguese) and recently honored with the 2012 International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, a prize given to recognize professionals who face reprisals and risk their lives to uncover corruption and human rights violations.

König was mentioned by name in the telephone calls. An anonymous source who identified himself as a military police officer said he overheard his colleagues mention that five police officers from Rio de Janeiro were in Curitiba, Paraná to attack König's home, according to Abraji. The motive could be an investigation conducted by the reporter.

According to Abraji, König and his family left their home in Curitiba and fled to an undisclosed location under the protection of security guards hired by the newspaper. Earlier this year, threats from the police drove reporter André Caramante of the newspaper Folha de São Paulo to leave the newsroom.

Abraji demanded immediate investigation into the threats against König, which it called a threat against freedom of expression and democracy and an attack on the public’s right to access information.

The Special Investigative Unit to Combat Organized Crime in Paraná, the organization that is also responsible for the external control of the state's police, launched an investigation on Tuesday, Dec. 18, to identify the suspects and their motives for threatening the Gazeta do Povo newsroom, reported the website Jornale.

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.