Appalled by the brutal murders of two Brazilian journalists in the space of a few days, Reporters Without Borders has written to President Dilma Roussef asking her to end the prevailing impunity for crimes of violence against media personnel in her country.
Dear President Roussef,
After two brutal murders of journalists in the space of a week, Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, urges Brazil to quickly adopt concrete and effective measures to guarantee the protection of news providers and to combat impunity for crimes of violence against them.
Brazil is the western hemisphere's third deadliest country for the media (after Mexico and Honduras), with a total of 38 journalists murdered in a clear or possible connection with their work from January 2000 to December 2014. Almost all were investigating sensitive subjects such as organized crime, human rights violations, corruption or different kinds of trafficking.
The organized crime presence in certain regions makes covering these subjects particularly risky. At the same time, the impunity prevailing in most of the cases increases the probability of their recurring. The trend has worsened in recent years with at least ten journalists killed in Brazil in direct connection with their work in 2012 and 2013, two in 2014 and now three since the start of 2015.
The latest victim was Djalma Santos da Conceicao, a radio journalist with RCA FM in Conceição da Feira, in the northeastern state of Bahia, who was kidnapped and shot dead on 22 May. His body bore the marks of torture. According to local sources, he had been threatened and had been investigating the murder of a teenage girl by traffickers.
Evany Jose Metzker, an investigative journalist who kept a blog called Coruja do Vale, was found beheaded near Padre Paraiso, in the northeast of the state of Minas Gerais, on 18 May, five days after being reporting missing. He had been investigating drug trafficking and child prostitution for several months and had covered several regional corruption cases in his blog, accusing local officials of involvement.
Gerardo Servian Coronel, a Paraguayan journalist working for Radio Ciudad Nueva, was gunned down in Ponta Porã, a Brazilian city near the Paraguayan border, on 4 March.
An increase in violence against journalists has also been seen during the major protests against public transport price hikes in São Paulo and against spending on the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Local and foreign journalists covering these protests from June 2013 to July 2014 were the targets of abusive treatment by the police that included insults, threats, arrests, arbitrary detention, physical violence and beatings.
The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalists (ABRAJI) registered 210 cases of abusive treatment of professional and non-professional journalists, 38 of them during the World Cup. The military police were responsible for most of these cases. Bandeirantes TV cameraman Santiago Ilidio Andrade was fatally injured while covering a protest in Rio de Janeiro on 6 February 2014.
In a report on violence against journalists issued in March 2014, a month after Andrade’s death, the Human Rights Secretariat recommended creating an Observatory for Violence against Journalists in partnership with UNESCO, and putting the federal authorities in charge of investigating crimes against journalists.
More than a year later, no action has been taken. A bill that would have put the federal authorities in charge of investigating such crimes was rejected on 20 May by the Chamber of Deputies commission on public safety and combating organized crime.
In view of the level of violence against journalists, implementation of the recommendations by the Human Rights Secretariat’s working group on the safety of journalist is more necessary and urgent than ever. Combating impunity must be a priority. Journalists will continue to be in danger as long as crimes of violence against them are not the subject of independent, impartial and thorough investigations that result in those responsible being identified and punished.
We thank you in advance for the attention that you give to our request.
Christophe Deloire, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general.