New York, July 2, 2003—At least two unidentified men killed Nicanor Linhares Batista, host of a radio show and owner of a radio station in Brazil’s northeastern state of Ceará. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is investigating whether the murder was related to Nicanor’s journalistic work.

Nicanor, 42, was the owner of Rádio Vale do Jaguaribe, based in the city of Limoeiro do Norte. He was murdered around 8 p.m. on Monday, June 30, while recording his daily show “Encontro Político” (Political Encounter). According to the daily Diário do Nordeste, based in Fortaleza, the capital of Ceará, gunmen came into the studio, shot Nicanor several times at close range, and fled on a motorcycle. A sound technician who worked for the radio station witnessed the murder. Nicanor was taken to Limoeiro do Norte’s Public Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.

The Fortaleza daily O Povo, citing other radio journalists from the area, reported that the program “Encontro Político,” broadcast on weekdays 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., was one of the most popular radio shows in the Jaguaribe Valley, where Limoeiro do Norte is located. According to O Povo, Nicanor was considered a controversial journalist whose hard-hitting commentaries had angered many local politicians and public officials.

According to the Brazilian news agency Agência Nordeste, police said that Nicanor’s murder may have been a contract killing, and that the journalist had many enemies because of the critical reports that aired on his station. Police also said that they were following several leads but that a motive had not yet been determined.

Ceará state parliamentary deputy Paulo Duarte was quoted in Diário do Nordeste as saying that he had heard about a plot to kill Nicanor and that Nicanor had received threats. According to Duarte, the journalist had scheduled a July 1 meeting with him and another state government official to discuss his safety.

“We are outraged at this murder, and our thoughts are with Nicanor’s family,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We urge the authorities to thoroughly investigate this murder and bring those responsible to justice.”