The Inter American Press Association IAPA praised Governor Jaques Wagner from the Brazilian state of Bahia for the enactment of legislation which provides for payment to the widow and children of journalist Manoel Leal de Oliveira murdered in 1998.
“This is one more step toward insuring that the murders of Oliveira and nine other journalists committed in Bahia in the 1990s do not remain unpunished and with hope that the murders are a thing of the past”, said IAPA president Alejandro Aguirre.
Olivera was the director and founder of the Bahia newspaper A Regiao, and his killing, still unsolved, reached the Inter American Human Rights Commission, IACHR.
Twelve years ago, at around 8:00 a.m. on January 14, Oliveira was killed outside his home. More than a decade later the master minds behind the crime are still unpunished, but for the first time in Brazil’s history a state government has publicly assumed responsibility for not guaranteeing press freedom and is complying with IACHR recommendations to make sure this is not repeated.
Under IACHR terms in an agreement signed with Brazil’s federal government in which the IAPA acted as petitioner, it is now up to the Brazilian government to take over the investigations to identify the masterminds and bring them to justice.
As part of the agreement, in an official ceremony on September 21 in the Bahian capital of Salvador the government assumed publicly, in the presence of Oliveira’s family, responsibility for the absence of justice in this case and those of the other nine murders committed in the region.
The Oliveira case was submitted to the IACHR by the IAPA on May 19, 2000, in a petition for its intervention based on the delays in the administration of justice.
Since 1997, and as part of its Impunity Project, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the IAPA has sent the IACHR results of its investigations into 24 unpunished murders of journalists in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Paraguay. With IACHR mediation, progress has been achieved with the governments of Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.