Renato Machado Gonçalves, the manager and joint owner of Radio Barra FM in Rio de Janeiro state, has become the first journalist to be killed in the western hemisphere in 2013. He was gunned down as he left his home in the north of the state last week.
The motive has not yet been determined, but robbery has already been ruled out, and the manner in which the crime was carried out clearly indicates that it was a targeted murder, Reporters Without Borders said.
The victim’s profession as a journalist will have to be taken into account in the coming investigation. While paying tribute to Gonçalves and sending our condolences to his family, we reiterate our concern from the safety of journalists in Brazil after a particularly lethal 2012.
“The recent flight abroad of well-known journalists such as André Caramante – who has since returned – and Mauri König underlines the urgent need for better protection. A debate is now under way at the federal level and we hope it leads to solutions.
Gonçalves, who lived in the same building as the radio station, located in São João da Barra, in the north of the state, left his home on the evening of 8 January after receiving a phone call. Witnesses said two individuals on a motorcycle intercepted him outside and opened fire. Hit four times, twice in the chest, he died of his injuries after being taken to Ferreira Machado Hospital in Campos. A São João da Barra police station has been given the job of investigating his murder.
One of his colleagues told Reporters Without Borders that Gonçalves was physically attacked at a meeting of the São João da Barra municipal chamber during last October’s local elections. There were several cases of violence against journalists during the campaign, as well as attacks on news media and many cases of court-ordered censorship.
The colleague nonetheless added: Renato had not received any threats and if he had, he would have reported them. He was not working on anything controversial at this time. I would not go as far as to say this was politically-motivated, but given the way it was carried out and the fact that he was fired on seven times, you can call it a targeted killing. It certainly was not a case of armed robbery.
Reporters Without Borders will return to the situation of media freedom in Brazil later this month, when it will publish the report of its fact-finding visit to Brazil last November.