IFJ Warns of “Deadly Crisis for Press Freedom” After Spate of Killings in Brazil

A series of four killings of journalists in just two months has prompted the International Federation of Journalists to warn of a “deadly crisis for press freedom” in Brazil and for government action to protect reporters.

The latest victim was photojournalist Luis Antonio da Costa, a reporter for the magazine Epoca, who was shot on July 23 by a lone gunman in Sao Bernardo, in the suburbs of Sao Paulo. He had been reporting on demands by up to 6,000 protesters demanding the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva provides them with public housing.

“This is the latest in a murderous chain of events that is creating a deadly crsisis for press freedom in Brazil,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “President Lula must lead the way in taking action to ensure the killers are found and brought to justice.”

The attacks on journalists and media appear to be linked to growing protests and actions by the peasants’ movement across Brazil this year which has seen dozens of farmland occupations and demands that President Lula makes good on promises to hand over unused land to the poor.

The death of da Costa has raised concerns among journalists’ leaders, including the IFJ affiliate the National Federation of Brazilian Journalists (FENAJ), that journalists are increasingly being targeted.

The other victims are:

    Melyssa Martins Correia, the cultural supplement editor of Oeste Notícias in São Paulo state, was shot dead at point-blank range on 3 June. It is not known if the killing was a random criminal act or if it was targeted at her newspaper, which has often reported on the activities of a São Paulo criminal organisation known as Primero Comando da Capital or PCC.

    Edgar Pereira de Oliveira, the owner of the weekly Boca do Povo in Campo Grande, the capital of the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, was gunned down on 9 June as he was taking one of the newspaper's employees to her home. His newspaper is known for its controversial reporting on drug trafficking and murders by hired killers and its criticism of political corruption and business fraud.

    Nicanor Linhares Batista, the owner Radio Vale do Jaguaribe in the northeastern state of Ceará, was shot dead by two gunmen as he was recording his programme "Encontro político" on 30 June. His two killers fled immediately. His programme was well-known for its polemical style and the accusations he would level against political figures and local government officials. Relatives said he had received many death threats.

“These killings have made Brazil one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists,” said White. “It is time for the authorities to make it clear that they will not tolerate any further acts of violence or intimidation against reports and media.”

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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries