Critical journalist’s home set on fire in the northern Amazon region

New York, July 24, 2008–Unidentified individuals set fire to the home of critical journalist Jeso Carneiro on Sunday night in the northern city of Santarém. No one was injured but the house suffered considerable damage. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Brazilian authorities to investigate the attack and provide the necessary protection to allow Carneiro to continue working without fear of reprisal.

Two unidentified men on a black Bros motorcycle circled Carneiro’s home for several minutes at around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday before stopping in front of the house, witnesses told the local news Web site Portal Na Hora. A security camera inside the journalist’s house filmed one of the men getting off the motorcycle and pouring an unknown liquid on the front walls and roof of the house and setting it on fire, according to local news reports. Witnesses said one of the assailants was injured by the fire before fleeing on the motorcycle with the other man, according to Portal Na Hora.

Carneiro, a reporter for weekly Gazeta de Santarém and local blog Jeso Carneiro, and the host of the daily political interview show “Opinão” on TV Bandeirantes, told CPJ he believes the motivation for the attack was his critical coverage of local politicians. He said he was unable to point out a specific story that could have triggered the attack.

“We are alarmed by the arson attack against Carneiro’s home, which could have turned fatal,” said CPJ Americas Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. “Brazilian authorities must immediately investigate this attack and provide the journalist with the protection he has requested to ensure that he can to continue working.”
Carneiro told CPJ that he was not home at the time of the attack. His 81-year-old mother-in-law and his daughter were in the house, Carneiro said. Neither was seriously injured. Carneiro said neighbors were able to stop the fire and call the police. The front of the house suffered considerable damage.

Investigators found a gallon-sized diesel container, a lighter, and a pair of sneakers at the scene, Carneiro told CPJ. Police also took the security tape as part of the investigation. Authorities have not made public further information on the attack.