The International Press Institute (IPI) today joined calls on Brazilian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the shooting death of a Brazilian radio journalist early this month.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported yesterday that Valderlei Canuto Leandro, 32, and host of the show “Sinal Verde” (Green Signal) on Radio Frontera, was killed on the night of 1 September by unidentified assailants riding a motorcycle.

Canuto, identified by local media as Wanderley Canuto Leandro, was reportedly shot eight times as he walked home from a marketplace near his home in the city of Tabatinga in the state of Amazonas.

IPI Press Freedom & Communications Manager Anthony Mills said: “Our sympathies are with the colleagues and family of Mr. Canuto, and we call on Brazilian authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into his killing. Brazil – which, according to IPI’s Death Watch, has now seen five journalists murdered this year, more than at any time so far this century – cannot allow a culture of impunity in the killing of journalists to take hold.”

Canuto is one of 34 journalists to die in Latin America in 2011, making the region the deadliest in the world. Latin America now accounts for nearly half of the 77 journalists whose names appear on IPI’s Death Watch. Since Canuto’s death, two journalists have been killed, in Peru and Honduras, respectively; two have been murdered in Mexico; and five have died while on assignment, in a plane crash, in Chile.

Canuto’s death also moves Brazil nearer to the top of the list of most dangerous countries for journalists. Only Mexico, with 10 deaths this year, and Iraq, with nine, have seen more journalists killed in 2011. Honduras, Libya and Pakistan have each also seen five deaths this year.

Local media said that Canuto – also reportedly president of a local taxi union – was known for criticizing local authorities and that he accused Tabatinga Mayor Samuel Benerguy of threatening him with death in May over his reports on corruption.

Benerguy, in a reply to a report by local Blog Da Floresta, denied any involvement in the killing and similarly denied having previously threatened the journalist. He accused electoral opponents of trying to use the crime against him for political purposes, adding that he was the person most interested in solving the crime.

The mayor also threatened legal action against those he said had unjustly accused him.