Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at a shooting attack that left newspaper editor Maurício Melato Barth seriously injured on 23 March in the southern city of Itapema (Santa Catarina state) and suggested local authorities could have been involved.
"We firmly condemn the violence and cowardliness of this attack, which aimed to silence a journalist," the press freedom organization said.
"It is highly likely this ’contract’ was carried out with the support, if not at the behest, of local officials who had been criticized in the victim’s articles, and we therefore call for a federal investigation to find out who was involved," Reporters Without Borders added.
The owner and editor of the local newspaper Infobairros, Melato found two masked men waiting for him when he returned home on the evening of 23 March. They fired three shots at him at close range, hitting him twice and shattering both of his thighbones.
Melato has often run stories on local corruption. "Itapema’s mayor is suspected of corruption," Ricardo Pedreira of the National Association of Journalists (ANJ) told Reporters Without Borders, adding, "it is quite probable that this was an attempted contract killing."
The same view was taken by Itapema-based freelance journalist André Gobbo. "Maurício had accused local politicians in his newspaper of administrative irregularities," he told Reporters Without Borders.
The shooting has caused a stir. "The Santa Catarina state government has organized and sent a team of investigators acting independently of our local police," Gobbo said.
Melato was initially hospitalized in Blumenau, where he spent a week. Then he was transferred to Curitiba, in neighbouring Paraná state.