At their bi-annual Executive Committee meeting, the International Federation of Journalists, have expressed their serious concern over missing investigative Brazilian journalist Tim Lopes of TV Globo.
According to news reports, he was last seen on assignment in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, on June 2nd at the impoverished community, Favela Vila do Cruzeiro. According to TV Globo the reporter was met by his driver at the favela at about 8 p.m., but told the driver that he needed more time to finish his work. They agreed to meet again at 10 p.m., but the reporter never arrived.
This was Lopes's fourth visit to Vila do Cruzeiro, and this time, he was a carrying a hidden camera. He was reported missing to the police. Colleagues say Lopes was working on a report about parties that were hosted by drug traffickers in Vila do Cruzeiro that allegedly involved drugs and the sexual exploitation of minors. The inhabitants of the favela had told Lopes that they were powerless against drug traffickers and had complained about the lack of police action.
On the afternoon of June 3, police found the charred remains of an unidentified body. In addition, police found bloodstains around the body and 8 mm film tapes, said TV Globo, which also pointed out that 8 mm film tapes are not used in hidden cameras. The police are awaiting the results of DNA tests.
Lopes received Brazil's most important journalism award in December 2001 for a TV Globo report on drug trafficking. The report, which was titled Drug Fair and was broadcast in August 2001, was filmed with a hidden camera and showed how traffickers sold drugs in a makeshift open drug market in a favela outside Rio de Janeiro.
"The situation is very worrying", said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, "The authorities must investigate thoroughly and seek to find Lopes as soon as possible."
The IFJ which represents more than 500,000 journalists around the world, calls on Benedita de Silva, the governor of Rio State to do everything she can to find Lopes. "This man's commitment to journalism and the cause of social justice has placed him in the frontline of the fight for an end to poverty and organized crime. It is imperative that he is found and his safety guaranteed."