Editor in hiding after attack; CPJ urges vigorous investigation

New York, April 8, 2005—A Brazilian newspaper editor who denounced political corruption faces a long recovery and has gone into hiding with his family two weeks after being attacked by gunmen. The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Brazilian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation.

Two unidentified assailants shot Maurício Melato Barth, owner and editor of the bimonthly newspaper Info-Bairros, twice in the legs at the editor’s home in the southern city of Itapema at about 8 p.m. on March 23.

Doctors told Barth he faces up to 15 months of recuperation before he can walk again, the editor said in an interview with CPJ. Since leaving the hospital a week ago, the editor and his family have gone into hiding. Info-Bairros has stopped publishing, and Barth said he does not know when he will resume working.

Barth told CPJ that the attack came after he published a series of articles denouncing government corruption in Itapema, a city of about 30,000 in the state of Santa Catarina. The editor said that he received anonymous phone threats before the shooting.

Local police in charge of the investigation believe the gunmen’s intention was not to kill, but to scare Barth and send him a message, the local press reported. Investigators also said they have not ruled out motives related to the journalist’s personal life.

Barth said he believes his newspaper’s work prompted the attack. André Gobbo, editor with the Itapema newspaper Jornal Independente, also told CPJ that he believes the attack stemmed from Info-Bairros coverage of local corruption.

Brazil remains a dangerous place for journalists, who are often targeted by corrupt politicians, criminals, and drug traffickers. Four journalists in Brazil have been killed for their work in the last five years, CPJ research shows.

“We condemn the violent attack against Maurício Melato Barth,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on Brazilian authorities to conduct a vigorous investigation and prosecute those responsible.”