Paraguayan journalist gunned down in Brazil

São Paulo, March 6, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder on Thursday of Paraguayan radio journalist Gerardo Ceferino Servían Coronel, who was shot to death in Ponta Porã, a small town on the Brazil side of the Brazil-Paraguay border.

“The Paraguayan-Brazilian border has become one of the most dangerous regions for journalists in the Western hemisphere,” said Sara Rafsky, CPJ’s Americas program research associate, from New York. “Authorities from both countries must come together to fully investigate the murder of Gerardo Ceferino Servían Coronel and bring those responsible to justice to demonstrate that they will not allow the press to be terrorized.”

Patrick Linares, the Brazilian detective in charge of the case, told CPJ, “It was an execution. Two people rode up to him and fired six or seven shots in his back and head.” The gunmen then fled the scene, news reports said.

Servían had worked in the past for several stations in and around Pedro Juan Caballero, the main city on the Paraguayan side of the border. Earlier this year, he began hosting a morning news show at Ciudad Nueva FM, a small community radio station based in Zanja Pytã, a small Paraguayan town around 10 miles from Pedro Juan Caballero, according to two local journalists who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal.

The journalist’s brother, Francisco “Kiko” Servían, a journalist with Radio Amambay on the Paraguayan side of the border, told The Associated Press that his brother had not reported receiving any death threats but that “in this area of the country it’s normal to silence journalists with gunshots.”

Brazilian police told CPJ they had established no motives for the murder and had no suspects. Linares said that more than a dozen men were investigating the case. He said they were evaluating closed-circuit television footage and had reached out to police on the Paraguayan side of the border to share information. Linares added that the investigation was hampered by a culture of fear among local citizens in the area.

“No one wants to speak on the border,” Linares told CPJ. “Everyone is afraid of repercussions. That’s normal with every case we have–especially with homicides.”

One of the journalists who asked to remain anonymous told CPJ that Servían had recently featured critical reports about the mayor of the town, Marcelino Rolón, who is up for re-election later this year. CPJ called the number listed on the website of the mayor’s office in Zanja Pytã several times, but a recording said the number was blocked.

According to CPJ research, the Paraguayan-Brazilian border is particularly dangerous for journalists. Pedro Juan Caballero is a center of smuggling and organized crime, according to news reports. In May 2014, two assailants on a motorcycle shot dead Fausto Gabriel Alcaraz Garay in Pedro Juan Caballero, according to news reports.

In October, Pablo Medina Velázquez, a Paraguayan journalist who wrote about the country’s illegal drug trade, was shot dead with his assistant in the eastern town of Curuguaty. On Wednesday, Brazilian authorities detained Vilmar “Neneco” Acosta Marques, mayor of Ypejhú, who was charged with ordering the crime and had been in hiding for months. Paraguayan journalists have called on authorities to seek his extradition immediately, according to news reports.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The text has been modified to reflect the correct spelling of Patrick Linares in the sixth paragraph.