Second journalist killed in Brazil in less than a week

New York, May 26, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of Brazilian radio journalist Djalma Santos da Conceição and calls on authorities to investigate and bring all those responsible to justice. Santos da Conceição’s body was found with signs of torture on Saturday in the northeast state of Bahia, one day after the journalist was kidnapped by armed assailants, according to news reports.

The journalist’s murder occurred less than a week after the killing of Evany José Metzker, a critical blogger who was found decapitated on May 18 in Minas Gerais, near the border with Bahia.

“The brutal murders of two Brazilian journalists in less than a week represents a troubling escalation of anti-press violence in Brazil, already one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist,” said Sara Rafsky, CPJ Americas program research associate.

Santos da Conceição, 53, presented the daily morning program “Acorda Cidade” on RCA FM, a community radio station in Conceição da Feira, a town of about 22,000 people, 128km northwest of Salvador, the state capital of Bahia, according to the Brazilian Association of Community Broadcasting (ABRAÇO Bahia).

A police officer who spoke with CPJ and local news reports said the journalist’s radio program was popular in the area and that Santos da Conceição pulled few punches when reporting about and demanding action on local crime and corruption.

“It was sensationalist and when you do that you damage egos and get to people,” Everaldo Monteiro, the coordinator of the Bahia State Union of Radio, TV and Publicity Workers, told CPJ via telephone from Salvador.

“Djalma Santos was known for being very controversial,” Jairo Bispo dos Santos, ABRAÇO’s executive coordinator, said in a statement.

Several news reports said Santos da Conceição had received death threats in the past and one report cited local police as saying he had received a threatening call on the day of his disappearance. The report did not offer further details.

A sharp increase in lethal, anti-press violence has been recorded in Brazil by CPJ in recent years. Prior to last week’s murder, at least 14 journalists have been killed in direct retaliation for their work since 2011, CPJ research shows. Brazil’s poor record of impunity adds to the violence and intimidation. The country was ranked eleventh on CPJ’s 2014 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go unpunished.

In May 2014, CPJ met with President Dilma Rousseff in the capital, Brasília, to present the findings of its special report “Halftime for the Brazilian Press: Will justice prevail over censorship and violence?” Rousseff promised her administration would implement a mechanism to prevent deadly attacks, protect journalists, and support legislative efforts to federalize crimes against freedom of expression.

“A year ago President Rousseff told CPJ that her government was committed to fighting impunity in journalists’ murders,” said Rafsky. “Yet since then we have seen more journalists killed in Brazil and no justice. It is time for the president to make good on that promise.”

News reports said Santos da Conceição, who was also a musician, was playing samba music in a kiosk, an open air bar common in small Brazilian communities, in the neighboring town of Governador Mangabeira on Friday night when armed and hooded men appeared at the establishment. The men fired shots in the air, dragged Santos da Conceição into the trunk of their white car, and fled, according to one report.

Police found his body the next morning in Timbó, a rural community just outside Conceição da Feira. They found 25 shells of 0.40, 0.380 and 0.45 caliber guns beside his body, a local police officer told CPJ in a telephone interview.

“He was tortured, his right eye had been gouged out and his tongue had been hacked off,” added the officer, who said he knew details of the case but refused to give his name because he was not directly involved in the investigation. “According to the specialists, the cruelty of his killing means it was a crime that was done to order,” the officer said.

Many other news reports added that Santos da Conceição had been shot in the leg, chest, abdomen, and face, and that his body showed signs of torture.