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Brazil1 August 2003

Appeal to President Da Silva after four journalists killed in two months

1-08-03

Police arrest two suspects in the murder of photographer Luís Antônio da Costa

Police on 30 July arrested Alexandre Sivério Sinza and Renato dos Santos Lira as suspects in the murder of news photographer Luís Antônio da Costa. The two allegedly participated in the hold-up of a petrol station near the homeless complex Da Costa was photographing at the moment of his death. One of them, Dos Santos Lira, has reportedly admitted shooting Da Costa because he thought Da Costa photographed them as they carried out the hold-up. The other detainee was seriously injured at the time of his arrest and is in a coma. A third gang member suspected in the killing is still on the run.


25-07-03

Appeal to President Da Silva after four journalists killed in two months

Reporters Without Borders wrote today to President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva to voice concern about the 23 July murder of freelance photographer Luiz Antônio Costa, and the killings of three other journalist in the past two months, Nicanor Linhares Batista, Edgar Ribeiro Pereira de Oliveira and Melyssa Martins Correia. In all four cases, there are grounds for thinking they were killed because of their work.

Secretary-general Robert Ménard urged President Da Silva to do everything possible to ensure that thorough investigations are carried out to establish the circumstances of these deaths and bring those responsible to justice, and he requested that Reporters Without Borders be kept informed of progress in the investigations.

He also asked President Da Silva to reform the judiciary so that investigations into the killings of journalists are entrusted to the federal police instead of the civil police (the local police). "The aim would be to shield the investigations from local pressure as the civil police is under the authority of local politicians who are themselves sometimes suspects in these murders," Ménard said.

The latest victim, Costa, was shot on 23 July as he was preparing a report for the weekly Época on land belonging to a Volkswagen plant in São Bernardo do Campo (São Paulo state) that is being occupied by members of a movement of people who are homeless. He died as he was being rushed to hospital. The gunman was last seen heading towards the installations of the homeless.

The daily A Folha de São Paulo reported the testimony of André Porto, a photographer with the newspaper Agora São Paulo who saw the incident and photographed it. He said the gunmen tried to rob Costa’s camera and shot him when he resisted. Época said the police had not yet determined whether the gunman was one of the homeless movement’s security guards or just an ordinary criminal. The homeless movement issued a release deploring Costa’s death and stressing that it is "a peaceful group that rejects violence."

Two suspects were arrested and then released because they were not recognised by witnesses.

The most recent previous victim was Linhares Batista, the owner Radio Vale do Jaguaribe in Limoeiro do Norte (in the northeastern state of Ceará), who was shot dead by two gunmen as he was recording his programme "Encontro político" on 30 June. His two killers fled immediately. His programme was well-known for its polemical style and the accusations he would level against political figures and local government officials. Relatives said he had received many death threats.

A police spokesman told Reporters Without Borders that it was definitely a politically-motivated contract killing . However, local journalists said they suspected Linhares Batista of collecting payments from politicians in return for broadcasting, or not broadcasting, information.

Pereira de Oliveira, the owner of the weekly Boca do Povo in Campo Grande, the capital of the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, was gunned down on 9 June as he was taking one of the newspaper’s employees to her home.

His newspaper is known for its controversial reporting on drug trafficking and murders by hired killers and its criticism of political corruption and business fraud. But again, some of his colleagues questioned his way of working and suspected him of blackmail.

Melyssa Martins Correia, the cultural supplement editor of Oeste Notícias in Presidente Prudente (in São Paulo state), was shot dead at point-blank range on 3 June. It is not known if the killing was a random criminal act or if it was targeted at her newspaper, which has often reported on the activities of a São Paulo criminal organisation known as Primero Comando da Capital or PCC.



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