A Brazilian journalist died from five gunshot wounds last Wednesday evening in Minas Gerais state, the fourth journalist killed so far this year in the country.
Maurício Campos Rosa – founder and owner of the newspaper O Grito, a free-of-charge biweekly publication – was leaving a friend’s house and approaching a vehicle with his newspaper’s logo on it in Santa Luzia, north of the state capital of Belo Horizonte, when he was shot once in the neck and four times in the back by two gunmen on a motorcycle. He later died while undergoing surgery.
Brazil’s Radio Jovem Pan noted that Rosa had been investigating alleged corruption between local city councillors and a garbage collection cooperative, and it speculated that the investigation might have been the motive for Rosa’s murder.
O Grito’s editorial director, Carlos Dias Barbosa, reportedly said that Rosa had not received threats, but that the journalist did voice concern about retaliation.
No suspects have reportedly been identified. Police said that the investigation was confidential and that a statement would only be released after the investigation was completed.
The International Press Institute (IPI) called on authorities to investigate all theories and bring the killers to justice, noting that the shooting seemed likely to perpetuate Brazil’s status as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.
“Brazil has averaged at least five journalists dead in connection with their work every year so far this decade,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. “That number is likely higher, as shown by last year, when at least seven killings were tied to the journalists’ work, but another two murders remain unsolved. Impunity risks breeding greater violence, so we urge authorities to fully investigate all possible motives and conduct a swift and transparent investigation.”
Ellis said the case also demonstrated the need for a working protection mechanism to ensure the safety of journalists who do report having received threats.
Three other journalists in Brazil have been gunned down this year, but it remains unclear whether the crimes were tied to their work. On July 24, João Miranda do Carmo was shot dead outside his home, despite having complained to police about receiving death threats. Miranda owned the outspoken news website SAD Sem Censura and reportedly angered local politicians. According to a police spokesman, Miranda previously had been accused of defamation and other charges.
Just months earlier, radio host João Valdecir de Borba was killed after two men followed him to his place of work and shot him in the restroom. Valdecir previously worked as a crime reporter, but reportedly asked to leave the post after receiving multiple threats. He had been hosting music programmes at the radio station following the move.
On April 9, blogger Manoel Messias Pereira died from six gunshots he sustained while riding his motorcycle in the early morning. The incident was initially thought to be an attempted robbery, although no belongings were reportedly taken. Observers criticised the police investigation at the time for not initially considering his profession as a possible motive.