Gunman sentenced in murder of Brazilian journalist

New York, August 9, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Tuesday’s conviction for the 2010 murder of Brazilian radio journalist and blogger Francisco Gomes de Medeiros. João Francisco dos Santos was sentenced to 27 years in prison on charges of shooting and killing the journalist in the northeastern city of Caicó, according to news reports.

“This conviction is an important counter-step to Brazil’s worsening record on impunity,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Authorities must now ensure that all those involved in the crime–including the masterminds–are brought to justice in order to send a clear signal to those who wish to violently silence journalists that they will not go unpunished.”

Gomes was shot at least five times in front of his home on October 18, 2010, and pronounced dead that night at a local hospital, according to news reports. The news director of local broadcaster Radio Caicó, Gomes had reported on local topics including government corruption, crime, and drug trafficking.

Authorities investigated several possible motives linked to Gomes’ reporting. Francisco, who is known as “Dão,” was arrested a day after the murder and confessed to committing the crime, the reports said.

In 2011 and 2012, authorities accused a group of local men of having ordered, planned, and carried out the crime. The individuals, reports said, had grievances with Gomes in relation to his coverage of local crime, corruption, and drug trafficking. Police charged a businessman, Lailson Lopes, known as “Gordo da Rodoviária,” as the mastermind of the crime. Lopes has been indicted and is awaiting trial. Four other men, including a local army lieutenant colonel, military police officer, lawyer and a former pastor who is currently serving a jail sentence for drug trafficking, have been charged and are awaiting trial, according to news reports. All five men deny any involvement in the murder.

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 June, a media executive was shot and killed in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. 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 and analysis, visit CPJ’s Brazil page here.