Local journalist killed in rural Brazil after receiving threats

Sao Paulo, January 19, 2018–Authorities in the Brazilian state of Goiás must undertake a thorough investigation into the murder of local radio show host Jefferson Pureza Lopes, and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Lopes was killed on the night of January 17 when two men drove on motorcycles to his house in Edealina, a town of around 4,000 people southwest of Brasilia, and shot him dead as he was sitting near a half-open door watching television, police and news reports said.

Friends and colleagues told the local news site Globo and CPJ that Lopes, who was frequently critical of local politicians on his radio show, faced threats and other forms of intimidation for more than a year before his murder.

According to the radio station’s director, Cristina Leandro, Lopes reported the threats to police, but the court cases stymied for procedural reasons.

Lopes is the second journalist killed in Brazil this week, following the murder of Ueliton Bayer Brizonin in Amazonia’s Rondonia state on January 16.

“This is the second murder of a journalist in one week and serves as a stark reminder of the dangers Brazilian reporters face in rural areas,” CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said from New York. “Brazilian authorities must swiftly investigate the killing of Jefferson Pureza Lopes and bring those responsible to justice.”

State police told CPJ officers from five different groups have been sent to the area to help with the investigation, but they refused to release further details.

“Because he works on the radio he has enemies in the city but we haven’t yet been able to determine who the killer was,” Queops Barreto, the state police officer leading the investigation, told Globo TV.

“His [Lopes’] program was controversial but that doesn’t mean it was connected to his assassination,” Barreto added. “This will all be cleared up through investigation.”

Lopes, 39, worked as a radio presenter for Beira Rio FM, a station based in Edealina, that is owned by a political rival to Edealina’s current mayor, a police spokesperson told CPJ. According to the spokesperson who was not authorized to give his name, Lopes frequently criticized the incumbent on air.

Leandro confirmed to CPJ that Lopes was a sharp and constant critic of local politicians, and devoted much of his daily one-hour show, Voz do Povo (Voice of the People), to highlighting what he saw as corruption or poor administration by local politicians.

Marlon Queiroz, Lopes’ co-host and a station DJ, told the Globo TV station that Lopes regularly received threats.

“For two years now he’s been getting threats, daily threats via WhatsApp– messages saying I’m going to end your family, that kind of thing,” Queiroz said.

In fall 2016, Leandro told CPJ Lopes’ house was shot up. Several months later after Lopes had been criticizing a local politician on air, her husband put a gun to Lopes’ head and told him to stop, according to Leandro.

The building where the station is based was also set on fire in November, the second such arson attack in a year, Leandro said. The station has been off the air since the fire but was due to go back online within 15 days, Leandro said. Those plans are now in doubt, she said.