CPJ hails convictions in 2007 murder of Brazilian journalist

New York, March 30, 2010—The conviction on Saturday of four men, including three members of the military police, in the 2007 murder of Brazilian journalist Luiz Carlos Barbon Filho is an important step forward in the global campaign to combat impunity in journalists’ murders, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.    

A court in Sao Paulo sentenced Captain Adelcio Carlos Avelino, Sergeant Edson Luiz Ronceiro—both members of Brazil’s military police—and businessman Carlos Alberto da Costa to 18 years and four months in prison on charges of aggravated murder and criminal association, the local press reported. The court also convicted police officer Paulo César Ronceiro and gave him 16 years and four months in prison on charges of aggravated murder.

“These convictions in the murder of Luiz Carlos Barbon Filho represent a significant stride against impunity in journalists’ killings in Brazil,” said CPJ’s Americas senior program coordinator, Carlos Lauría. “By prosecuting and convicting journalists’ murderers, Brazil is sending a clear message that those who try to silence journalists will not go unpunished.”

On May 5, 2007, two hooded individuals on a motorcycle approached Barbon Filho, 37, while he was sitting on a bar terrace in the southern city of Porto Ferreira, 140 miles (230 kilometers) from São Paulo, the local press reported. One of the masked assailants stepped off the motorcycle and shot the journalist twice at close range. Barbon Filho, a columnist for the local dailies Jornal do Porto and JC Regional, and contributor to the local station Rádio Porto FM, was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

According to the ruling, posted on the Brazilian Web magazine Consultor Juridico, Avelino masterminded the crime; Ronceiro drove the motorcycle; Da Costa owned the gun that killed Barbon Filho; while Ronceiro hid the gun used to kill Barbon Filho. Valnei Bertoni, a fourth police officer accused of firing the gun, remains in jail and will be tried in a separate trial, the Brazilian press said.

Barbon Filho drew wide attention in 2003 with a report on a local child prostitution ring. The report, published in the daily Realidade—owned by the journalist—resulted in the convictions of four businessmen, five local politicians, and a waiter, the local press reported. The journalist’s wife, Cátia Rosa Camargo, told local media that Barbon Filho received a constant stream of threatening letters and telephone calls throughout his career.

According to CPJ’s 2009 Impunity Index, Brazil ranked 13th in a list of countries in which journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. While the ranking reflected Brazil’s longstanding record of violence against the press, it also recognized recent progress in bringing perpetrators to justice. In May 2009, one man was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison for participating in the murder of Nicanor Linhares, the provocative host of a top-rated radio show in the state of Ceará. Linhares was killed in June 2003 by two armed men who stormed into his broadcast booth at Rádio Vale do Jaguaribe in the city of Limoeiro do Norte.