Newspaper attacked in the wake of crime wave

New York, May 19, 2006 The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an arson attack on the Brazilian newspaper Imprensa Livre

in São Sebastião, which had covered nearly a week of fighting between criminal gangs and police in the nearby city of São Paulo, according to national and international press reports.

Three masked gunmen stormed into the offices of the daily early on Thursday. They beat five employees and made all staff lie on the floor, Brazilian media reported. They doused a printing press and Thursday’s print run with gasoline and set them alight. They then tossed a homemade bomb into a building and escaped on foot.

“We are shocked by this brutal attack on Imprensa Livre,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We urge the authorities to complete a full investigation, and bring those responsible to justice. It is an outrage that criminals carrying guns are in a position to determine what the media can and cannot cover.”

The assailants told employees repeatedly that the newspaper should not report on the gang known as Primeiro Comando da Capital. The gang launched an unprecedented strike this week, which crippled public services in São Paulo after jailed gang leaders were transferred from the country’s largest city to a remote prison. The Associated Press reported 170 deaths in violence connected with the strike.

Imprensa Livre has reported extensively on gang crime. In an official statement, the paper’s director Henrique Veltman said that the attack “will not silence our editorial line.”