The International Press Institute (IPI) today called on Brazilian authorities to immediately investigate reports of death threats against award-winning investigative journalist Mauri König.

According to the Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism (Abraji), König and his family were forced to leave their home in Curitiba, capital of the southern state of Paraná, and go into hiding after callers, at least one of whom identified himself as a police officer, warned that the residence would be targeted by “policemen using machine guns”.

König, a reporter for Gazeta do Povo, has frequently covered police corruption and sex trafficking, particularly near Paraná’s volatile border with Paraguay. Earlier this year, König produced a series of reports detailing alleged abuse of authority by Paraná civil police, among them the use of police vehicles for private purposes, including visiting brothels.. Following publication, Abraji noted, König was branded “Police Enemy No. 1” in comments made on the newspaper’s website.

“The Brazilian government must act quickly to ensure the safety of Mauri König and his family,” IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said. “It is the role of journalists to hold those in power accountable to the Brazilian public. They must be able to do without fear of retribution.”

Mills added: “We are deeply troubled by the fact that, as Brazil enjoys rising success and stature on the international stage, its investigative journalists at home are increasingly the targets of violent reprisals.”

According to IPI’s Death Watch, five journalists have been killed in Brazil this year for reasons related to their work. That figure makes Brazil the second-most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere for the media, behind only Mexico. In 2011, a further five Brazilian journalists were murdered, the highest annual figure in Brazil since IPI began its Death Watch in 1997. An IPI special report earlier this year found that violence against journalists in Brazil is heavily concentrated in border regions and areas outside major cities.

König, currently a board member of Abraji, was awarded the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Journalism Prize in 2006. This November, he received the Committee to Protect Journalists’s (CPJ) International Press Freedom Award.