Gunman convicted in 2013 murder of Brazilian journalist

New York, June 24, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the conviction on Friday of the gunman in the 2013 murder of Brazilian journalist Rodrigo Neto and calls on authorities to ensure all those responsible, including the mastermind, are brought to justice.

“The murder of Rodrigo Neto has exemplified Brazil’s entrenched impunity, and CPJ welcomes every step toward justice in his case,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Authorities must build on this momentum to identify and prosecute the mastermind and then double down on their efforts to find justice for the more than dozen Brazilian journalists murdered in recent years.”

Neto was shot dead on March 8, 2013, by a man on the back of a motorcycle, according to news reports. The journalist died in a hospital in Ipatinga, in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais. Neto was the host of the show “Plantão Policial” (Police Shift) on Rádio Vanguarda in Ipatinga and had begun working as a reporter at the daily Vale do Aço the week before the attack. He frequently received threats, especially for his coverage of cases in which police were suspected of involvement in local murders, Fernando Benedito Jr., a journalist in Ipatinga and a friend of Neto, told CPJ at the time.

A court sentenced Alessandro Neves Augusto, known as “Pitote,” to 16 years in prison on charges of carrying out Neto’s murder, according to news reports. Neves was already in custody at the time of his sentence. In August 2014, former police officer Lúcio Lírio Leal was sentenced to 12 years in prison for participating in the planning of Neto’s murder, according to news reports. Both men denied the charges and Neves alleged that he was being framed by the local police, according to local reports.

Authorities are still investigating to determine the motive and mastermind, according to news reports.

Neves has also been charged with carrying out the murder in April 2013 of Walgney Assis Carvalho, a freelance crime photographer who also contributed to Vale do Aço, according to news reports. His trial in that case begins in August, the reports said.

In his court testimony in Neves’ case, police chief Emerson Morais said he believed that Carvalho had been killed because the journalist had apparently told people that he knew who had killed Neto, according to news reports. Morais said that authorities were looking into Neto’s critical reports as the primary line of investigation.

CPJ has documented a sharp increase in lethal, anti-press violence in Brazil in recent years. At least 14 journalists have been killed in direct retaliation for their work since 2011, CPJ research shows. While Brazil has achieved an impressive number of convictions in recent years–six in the past two years, including these two most recent cases–the ongoing violence led the country to be ranked 11th on CPJ’s 2014 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go unpunished.

In a meeting with a CPJ delegation in May 2014, President Dilma Rousseff pledged to continue fighting against impunity in cases of killed journalists. Rousseff told CPJ her administration would implement a mechanism to prevent deadly attacks, protect journalists under imminent risk, and support legislative efforts to federalize crimes against free expression. Rousseff said her administration had the political will to pursue a goal of “zero impunity” in journalists’ murders.