CPJ welcomes conviction in 2013 murder of Brazilian photographer

São Paulo, August 20, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the conviction and sentencing Wednesday of Alessandro Neves Augusto for the murder of Walgney Assis de Carvalho, a freelance photographer shot dead in Minas Gerais state in 2013, and urges authorities to continue investigating to find the mastermind.

Augusto, known as Pitote, was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to 14 years and three months in prison for killing Carvalho in the town of Coronel Fabriciano, the prosecutor in the trial, Juliana da Silva Pinto, told CPJ on Wednesday via telephone.

The conviction comes almost two months after Augusto was sentenced to 16 years in jail for the murder of Carvalho’s colleague Rodrigo Neto, and the attempted murder of a man who was with Neto at the time, the local Diario do Aço reported. The two sentences will run consecutively and Augusto plans to appeal, da Silva Pinto told CPJ.

“We praise Brazilian authorities for this conviction in the murder of Walgney Assis de Carvalho,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “While this is an encouraging sign, in this case the chain of accountability has ended with the gunman. We urge Brazilian authorities to identify and prosecute the mastermind and put an end to the cycle of deadly violence against the local press.”

The court heard that on April 14, 2013, Carvalho, a 43-year-old contributor to the daily Vale do Aço, was shot in the back by Augusto as he sat at a popular fishing hole and restaurant.

Da Silva Pinto said jurors were told that Augusto killed Carvalho to silence him after the photographer told friends he had information about Neto’s murder. Augusto was found guilty of shooting Neto a month before, on March 8, 2013, while Neto was getting into a car after a barbecue in the town of Ipatinga, according to news reports.

Neto was the host of the show “Plantão Policial” (Police Shift) on Rádio Vanguarda in Ipatinga and had started working the week before as a reporter at the daily Vale do Aço. He was also a press aide to the local mayor, according to Fernando Benedito Jr, a journalist in Ipatinga and a friend of Neto. Neto aggressively covered police corruption throughout his career and was frequently threatened in relation to his reporting, Benedito told CPJ.

Brazil has experienced a sharp spike in deadly violence against the press in recent years, according to CPJ research. At least 16 journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work since 2011, CPJ research shows. Brazil is ranked eleventh on CPJ’s 2014 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go unpunished. However, in the past two years there have been seven convictions in cases of murdered journalists, including the one this week.

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 threat, 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.