Journalist attacked and threatened

New York, January 25, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the January 21 attack and death threats against Brazilian journalist Lúcio Flávio Pinto, who is based in the city of Belém, in the northern state of Pará.

Pinto, the publisher and editor of the small bimonthly Jornal Pessoal, said he was at a restaurant having lunch with some friends on Friday, January 21, when Ronaldo Maiorana, a businessman and politician, approached him from behind, hit him in the neck, and grabbed him by his shirt. Maiorana then put Pinto in a choke hold, pushed him to the floor, kicked him, and threatened to kill him. Maiorana’s bodyguards provided cover for their boss during the attack.

Maiorana is the director of the Belém-based daily O Liberal, which is owned by the media group Organizações Romulo Maiorana. The media group also owns the television station TV Liberal, the local affiliate of Rede Globo, Brazil’s largest television network, and a radio station. In addition, it offers cable television and high-speed Internet access. Maiorana is also president of the center-right Liberal Party in Pará.

On January 18, Pinto wrote an article in Jornal Pessoal on the Maiorana family and the history of Organizações Romulo Maiorana. The article alleged that the media group ran a quasi-monopoly in Pará and had long used its influence to pressure companies and politicians to give advertising to the media group’s outlets.

According to the news agency Agência Folha, which is owned by the São Paulo­based daily Folha de S. Paulo, Maiorana confirmed only having punched Pinto, who, he said, had “ridiculed” his family for more than a decade. Maiorana also vowed to pursue a criminal defamation complaint against Pinto, Agência Folha reported.

Pinto immediately filed a criminal complaint with police, who launched an investigation. Maiorana’s bodyguards, who are military police officers, are under investigation by military prosecutors, according to the daily Diário do Pará.

“We are outraged by this attack but encouraged that Brazilian authorities are pursuing an investigation,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Journalists should never suffer retaliation for their work.”

An award-winning journalist, Pinto has faced several criminal defamation lawsuits and received numerous threats in the past for his critical reporting on a variety of subjects, including drug trafficking, environmental devastation, and political and corporate corruption. For several years, he wrote the column “Carta da Amazônia” (Letter from the Amazon) for the São Paulo­based daily O Estado de S. Paulo.