Journalist shot dead in Brazil, second in two weeks

New York, March 8, 2013–Brazilian authorities must immediately investigate today’s murder of a journalist and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Two unidentified men on a motorcycle shot Rodrigo Neto early today as he was getting into his car after attending a local barbecue in Ipatinga, in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, according to news reports. The journalist died at a local hospital.

Neto was the host of the show “Plantão Policial” (Police Shift) on Rádio Vanguarda in Ipatinga and had started working the week before as a reporter at the daily Vale do Aço. He was also a press aide for the local mayor, according to Fernando Benedito Jr., a journalist in Ipatinga and a friend of Neto. Benedito told CPJ that Neto had aggressively covered police corruption throughout his career. He said Neto had frequently received threats, especially for his coverage of cases in which police officers were suspected of being involved in local murders.

Benedito told CPJ that he believed Neto’s murder could be related to his work, but was not sure what articles in particular could have been responsible. News accounts reported the local authorities as saying that they would be looking into his journalistic work as a possible motive.

“Authorities must ensure a thorough investigation into the murder of Rodrigo Neto, particularly as he reported on police corruption,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy director. “This is the second murder of a journalist in two weeks and comes against the backdrop of the deadliest two-year period on record for the country’s press.”

This is the second radio journalist in two weeks to be murdered by unidentified gunmen in Brazil. Mafaldo Bezerra Goes, a radio host who denounced crime in the city of Jaguaribe, was shot dead on February 22.

A spike in lethal violence has made Brazil one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world, according to CPJ’s newly released book, Attacks on the Press. Brazil was also named to CPJ’s Risk List, which identified 10 countries where press freedom suffered in 2012.