Investigative reporter missing

New York, June 5, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about the June 2 disappearance of Tim Lopes, an investigative reporter with TV Globo in Brazil. According to news reports, he was last seen on assignment in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, at an impoverished community, known as a favela.

On June 2, the 50-year-old Lopes traveled to Favela Vila do Cruzeiro. According to a TV Globo press release published in Brazilian papers, the reporter was met by his driver at the favela at about 8 p.m., but told the driver that he needed more time to finish his work. They agreed to meet again at 10 p.m., but the reporter never arrived.

This was Lopes’s fourth visit to Vila do Cruzeiro, and this time, he was a carrying a hidden camera.

On June 3, TV Globo reported Lopes’s disappearance to the police.

According to TV Globo, Lopes was working on a report about parties that were hosted by drug traffickers in Vila do Cruzeiro and that allegedly involved drugs and the sexual exploitation of minors. The inhabitants of the favela had told Lopes that they were powerless against drug traffickers and had complained about the lack of police action.

On the afternoon of June 3, police found the charred remains of an unidentified body. In addition, police found bloodstains around the body and 8 mm film tapes, said TV Globo, which also pointed out that 8 mm film tapes are not used in hidden cameras. The police are awaiting the results of DNA tests, which should be available in a week.

The police are looking into several leads and are conducting searches in Vila do Cruzeiro. Citing police sources, the daily O Estado de S. Paulo reported that local drug trafficker Elias Pereira da Silva was the leading suspect in the disappearance of Lopes.

Lopes received Brazil’s most important journalism award in December 2001 for a TV Globo report on drug trafficking. The report, which was titled “Drug Fair” and was broadcast in August 2001, was filmed with a hidden camera and showed how traffickers sold drugs in a makeshift open drug market in a favela outside Rio de Janeiro.

Reporter Cristina Guimarães, who co-produced the report with Lopes and two other colleagues, received death threats in September 2001 and had to leave the state of Rio de Janeiro, according to O Estado de S. Paulo. The daily Jornal do Brasil reported that Lopes, too, had received threats for the report.