Media executive gunned down in Brazil

New York, June 13, 2013–Brazilian authorities must identify the motive behind Tuesday’s murder of a media executive, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Four masked men shot José Roberto Ornelas de Lemos at least 41 times while he was at a bakery in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, according to news reports.

“Authorities must launch an exhaustive investigation into this brutal murder and determine the motive behind it,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas.

Ornelas de Lemos, the administrative director of the daily Jornal Hora H, was involved in all aspects of the daily’s operations, a newspaper employee told CPJ. He was also the son of Jornal Hora H‘s owner José Lemos. A journalist at Jornal Hora H told authorities that Ornelas de Lemos had received threats for the daily’s reporting, according to news reports, but did not elaborate.

Police Captain Marcus Henrique Alves told reporters that authorities were investigating the daily’s coverage as a possible motive for the murder. “It was a combative newspaper, that frequently denounced irregularities and corruption,” he said. The daily was known for its tabloid-style coverage of crime and the police.

News accounts also reported that Ornelas de Lemos had been investigated for three murders committed in the 1990s but had never been formally charged. He had once been accused of being involved in the murder of a local official in 2003 in a dispute over a trash collection contract and was imprisoned, but was later acquitted, the reports said. Authorities said that he had survived a previous attack in 2005, according to news reports.

A spike in lethal violence has made Brazil one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world, according to CPJ’s annual publication, Attacks on the Press. In the span of five weeks in March and April, two journalists were murdered in Vale do Aço. In 2013, Brazil was the 10th worst country in CPJ’s Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and the killers go free. The country was also named to CPJ’s Risk List, which identified 10 places where press freedom suffered in 2012.

  • For more data on Brazil, visit CPJ’s Brazil page here.