A journalist has been gunned down in Brazil’s west-central state of Mato Grosso, the fourth to be killed in the country for his work this year, according to the International Press Institute (IPI)’s Death Watch.

Local news reported that police said Auro Ida was gunned down on 22 July as he left his girlfriend’s home. Two men reportedly approached the car, asked the 19-year-old woman to get out and then shot Ida six times in the head and chest.

Ida worked in the legislative assembly of Mato Grosso, was the editor of the Midianews website and wrote a column for the Olhar Direto online publication. Although authorities are reportedly working on the theory of a crime of passion, IPI joined other press freedom groups in calling on them not to rule out the possibility that he was murdered in connection with his work.

Brazilian media reported that José Riva, president of the Mato Grosso legislative assembly, said that Ida had recently reported threats in connection with his journalistic work. The Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported that colleagues who attended Ida’s funeral expressed suspicions that the murder was related to an investigation about corruption in the state.

IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “We are very concerned at the mounting number of journalists killed in Brazil. According to IPI’s Death Watch, the toll is now at its highest number since 2003. Our sympathies go out to the families and colleagues of journalists murdered in Brazil, and we call on the authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice so that a climate of impunity does not take hold.”

Police reportedly detained a 19-year-old suspect on 26 July near the location where Ida was shot, but the suspect was set free after Ida’s girlfriend said she did not recognize him.

In other news, Brazilian police have arrested five suspects in the killing of Brazilian newspaper founder Edinaldo Figueira. According to authorities, three of the suspects approached Figueira on motorcycles on 15 June and shot him.

Figueira started the local O Serrano newspaper in Brazil’s northern state of Rio Grande do Norte, maintained a blog about social issues and was president of a municipal chapter of the Workers’ Party (PT). According to the police, his murder was related to his journalistic work, as he published criticism of political opponents in his blog.

One of those arrested, Rafanio Brito de Azevedo, is accused of acting as a middle-man between the alleged hired killers – Abnadabe Nunes Ismael Pereira de Silva, Fábio Ferreira da Silva and Paulo Ricardo da Costa – and the person who ordered the assassination. Marcelio de Sousa Moura stands accused of providing logistical support and disposing of the weapons.

Local news outlets reported that some of the suspects have been linked to a number of past associations. Investigators are now reportedly seeking to identify the person or persons who ordered Figueira’s killing.

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas reported that fellow bloggers said they suspected the killing was linked to a survey Figueira published on his blog questioning the activities of city officials. Figueira was a leading opponent of Serra Do Mel mayor Josivan Bibiano de Azevedo, of the centre-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), and had posted an investigative report on municipal finances, accompanied by an opinion poll.

In addition to Ida and Figueira, three other journalists have been killed in Brazil this year, although authorities have attributed the 16 May slaying of El Clarín de La Victoria columnist Wilfred Ojeda to revenge over a debt that had nothing to do with his journalistic work.

Gunmen in May shot and killed Valerio Nascimento, the owner of Brazilian newspaper Panorama Geral, which had criticized local authorities in Sao Paulo state.

In April, gunmen entered a restaurant in the city of Vitoria de Santo Antao and shot broadcast journalist Luciano Pedrosa, who covered crime, and news about local authorities, for Metro FM and Vitoria TV.