Bruno Gaudêncio Coércio, Amarildo Barbosa and Amauri Delábio Campoy were sentenced to 12 years in prison on 25 January for planning and carrying out an arson attack that destroyed much of the building that houses the Diário de Marília daily newspaper and its two sister radio stations, Diário FM and Dirceu AM, on 8 September in Marília, in São Paulo state.
The arson attack was a serious press freedom violation as the defendants acted with the intention of silencing the three news media, the judge ruled. Their conviction is seen as ending a long period of harassment and intimidation, as well as disinformation blamed on the supporters of former prefect Abelardo Camarinha, the arson attack’s alleged instigator.
09.09.05 - Arsonists torch daily newspaper and two radio stations
Reporters Without Borders said it was outraged by an arson attack by three hooded gunmen that gutted most of a building housing the Diário de Marília daily newspaper and two radio stations, Diário FM and Dirceu AM, yesterday in Marília, in the southeastern state of São Paulo.
“Whether an act of criminal vandalism or a targeted reprisal against a newspaper that is critical of the local political class, this attack is yet further evidence that the local press is not entirely safe in Brazil,” the press freedom organisation said.
“We call on the São Paulo state authorities to carry out a thorough investigation and we urge the federal government to guarantee press freedom throughout the country,” the organisation added.
The building was the headquarters of the Central Marília Noticias media group, which owns the newspaper and the two radio stations. Night watchman Sérgio Silva de Araújo, who was alone in the building at the time, said a woman in her 20s appeared at about 3 a.m. claiming she wanted to hand in a message for one of the radio stations.
When he opened the door to take the message, three hooded men forced their way in and threatened him with their guns. Initially they asked to be taken to the company’s safe. But then they poured gasoline over furniture and equipment set it alight. The ensuing blaze destroyed nearly 80 per cent of the building.
Diário de Marília editor José Ursilio de Souza said he though the attack was a deliberate reprisal against his newspaper, which “had just adopted a critical editorial line towards local politicians.” The newspaper can still be read on the Internet.