New York, September 12, 2011--Brazilian authorities must thoroughly investigate the September 1 murder of a Brazilian radio journalist who was known for his criticism of local authorities and had allegedly been threatened with death by a local mayor, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Valderlei Canuto Leandro, 32, host of the show "Sinal Verde" (Green Signal) on Radio Frontera, was shot to death at night by unidentified assailants aboard a motorcycle in the city of Tabatinga, in the state of Amazonas, according to local press reports. The gunmen shot him at least eight times, press reports said. Canuto had been returning from the local marketplace, a block away from his home, his brother Alderli Canuto told CPJ. The journalist was also president of the local taxi union.
"We are disturbed by the murder of Valderlei Canuto Leandro," said CPJ Americas Senior Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. "Given the journalist's critical reporting on local government, Brazilian authorities must launch a timely and thorough investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice."
Canuto was known for his criticism of local authorities, according to Blog Da Floresta, a local blog run by Brazilian journalists Orlando Farias and Mário Dantas. In May, Canuto filed a complaint with the prosecutor's office stating that Tabatinga mayor Samuel Benerguy had threatened him with death for reporting on corruption in the municipality, local press reports said.
In an article posted on Blog Da Floresta on Friday, Benerguy denied any involvement in Canuto's killing. He also denied threatening Canuto, despite the journalist's complaint. The mayor told Blog Da Floresta that he lamented the journalist's death and wanted the crime to be solved.
The local police launched an investigation, but no suspects have been identified. Sávio Pinzon, a police chief in the state's capital, Manaus, told CPJ that authorities are looking into the journalist's work as a possible motive.
Radio Frontera is located on the island of Santa Rosa, on the Peruvian side of the three-border region between Brazil, Peru, and Colombia. The station broadcasts in Portuguese and Spanish.
CPJ has documented an alarming rise in lethal violence in Brazil in 2011. Four other Brazilian journalists have been killed this year, and a blogger shot and wounded.