New York, April 29, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is alarmed that two Brazilian radio journalists known for their coverage of corruption and crime were killed last week in remote regions.
On April 24, radio host José Carlos Araújo was killed in the town of Timbaúba, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the state capital of Recife in the northeastern state of Pernambuco. Two unidentified gunmen ambushed and shot Araújo at around 7:30 p.m. outside his home in Timbaúba, according to local news reports. None of the journalist’s belongings were stolen.
The 37-year old Araújo hosted the call-in talk show “José Carlos Entrevista” (José Carlos Interviewing) at Rádio Timbaúba FM. Citing police sources, the Recife-based daily Diário de Pernambuco said that Araújo had made several enemies in Timbaúba after denouncing the existence of death squads run by criminal gangs and the involvement of well-known local figures in murders in the region.
According to the Recife daily Folha de Pernambuco, on April 28, police captured Elton Jonas Gonçalves de Oliveira, one of the suspected assassins, who confessed to killing Araújo because the journalist had accused him on the air of being a criminal. Folha de Pernambuco quoted Timbaúba’s police chief as saying that Gonçalves claimed that he did not commit all the crimes the journalist accused him of and resented Araújo for giving him a bad reputation.
Journalist killed on Brazil-Paraguay border
On April 20 at around 6 p.m., four gunmen on two motorcycles shot radio host Samuel Romã outside his home in Coronel Sapucaia, in the southwestern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, according to local news reports. Police took the journalist to the municipal hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Romã was a host and owner of Radio Conquista FM, based in the Paraguayan town of Capitán Bado just across the Brazilian border from Coronel Sapucaia.
The 36-year-old Romã was a well-known and outspoken journalist who frequently denounced drug trafficking and crime in the border area, according to the daily Correio do Estado, based in Campo Grande, the state capital. He hosted the one-hour talk show “A Voz do Povo” (The Voice of the People).
According to the daily O Progresso, during several shows before his death, Romã had demanded that police investigate several recent murders in the area. In addition, he had recently announced that he had documents proving that important local figures are involved in organized crime, and that he would disclose their names.
On April 22, Paraguayan police arrested three men suspected of killing Romã and handed them over to Brazilian police, who sent them to Campo Grande.
CPJ continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the journalist’s death. In early April, local police had questioned the journalist about his visits to a clandestine gambling parlor, the news Web site Dourados Agora reported. Romã was also a member of the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) and had close ties to local PDT politicians.
“Journalists in Brazil’s interior are often defenseless, and impunity for crimes against them seems to be the norm,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We hope that the arrests made in these cases are a sign that the pattern of impunity will be broken, and that the cases will be swiftly and thoroughly prosecuted.”