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Brazil13 April 2007

Fire attack on offices of critical newspaper

Reporters Without Borders today strongly deplored a fire that swept through the offices of the fortnightly newspaper Tribuna do Povo, in Várzea da Palma (300 km north of Belo Horizonte, in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais) on 9 April and called for those responsible to be arrested and punished.

It said the blaze resembled one that destroyed the offices of a newspaper and two radio stations in Marília (São Paulo state) in September 2005 after they too had strongly criticised local officials. The latest fire badly damaged the offices, destroying furniture and computers. A neighbour alerted police, who found cans of petrol on the spot and said it was arson.

The paper, founded and co-edited by Dirceu Marques de Oliveira and Artur Nascimento, has reported on extensive corruption in the Várzea da Palma town government.

Similar accusations of corruption against local officials, including former mayor Abelardo Camarinha, led to the fire at the Marília offices of the daily Diário de Marília and radio stations Diário FM and Dirceu AM on 8 September 2005. Three people were each jailed for 12 years in January 2006 for setting the fire.

Camarinha and his son Vinícius, a member of the state assembly, were not punished, and mounted an operation to block publication of Diário de Marília on general election day on 3 October last year.

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