Journalism associations condemn third killing of reporter in disastrous start to year for Brazilian press
National and international journalism associations denounced the attack that killed Brazilian journalist Paulo Roberto Cardoso Rodrigues, known as Paulo Rocaro, in the early hours Monday, Feb. 13, in Ponta Porã, Mato Grosso do Sul, on the border with Paraguay. Rocaro was editor in chief of the newspaper Jornal da Praça and of the news site Merco Sul News, where he frequently wrote about politics and drug trafficking.
The organizations emphasized the disastrous start to the year for the Brazilian press, as Rocaro was the second journalist killed in less than two weeks and the third since the beginning of 2012. Besides Rocaro, on Thursday, Feb. 9, political journalist Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes was killed in the city of Barra do Piraí in the state of Rio de Janeiro. About a month before, reporter Laércio de Souza, who had earlier received threats on his cell phone, was shot to death.
According to the International News Safety Institute (INSI), last year Brazil was the 8th most dangerous country for journalists and currently holds first place for the 2012 rankings, tied with Syria.
“The death of Paulo Rocaro increases the total number of journalists killed in Brazil in 2012 to three, although the motivation, in the killing of Laércio de Souza, on Jan. 3, in Bahia, does not seem related to his profession. Unfortunately, the violence recorded at the beginning of this year confirms a tendency that appeared in the most recent Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, in which Brazil dropped 41 places to no. 99. Are there reasons to fear a shift toward the Mexican or Colombian situation?” asked Reporters Without Borders.
The French organization also mentioned incidents of threats, attacks and even destruction of media property, like the fires that burned the community radio station, Ibicoara FM, located in the state of Bahia, and the offices of the Brazilian newspaper Folha do Boqueirão, in Curitiba, Paraná, threats against the political journalist from Cuiabá, Jorge Estevão, and violence and censorship reporters suffered while covering a land seizure in Pinheirinho.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) demanded swift investigation of this latest killing and emphasized the danger journalists face covering the Brazil-Paraguay border, recalling the recent death threats made against Paraguayan reporter Cándido Figueredo.
"The murders of two journalists in such a short time cast a chill on the Brazilian press and make it imperative that authorities fully investigate the crimes, determine the motives, and prosecute those responsible," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior Americas program coordinator.
In Brazil, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji in Portuguese) and the National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj) also expressed worry and lamented the increased violence. "Crimes which attempt to silence journalists are serious attacks on freedom of expression and swift, rigorous investigation is necessary so that they are not left unpunished," said Abraji.
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