Ítalo Eduardo Diniz Barros

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Diniz was shot at about 6:45 p.m. as he walked on one of the main roads in Governador Nunes Freire, a town about 285 miles (460 km) from the Maranhão state capital São Luis, according to local news reports that cited witnesses. Diniz, a blogger who also worked as a press officer for a local mayor, often criticized local authorities in his blog, according to colleagues and local news reports.

Two men on a motorcycle shot Diniz four times before fleeing and Diniz died later in hospital, the reports said. A friend who was with him at the time, identified in news reports as Werbeth Matheus Castro, was hit but not critically injured.

Augusto Barros, the police officer in charge of the investigation, told the local website of national news organization Globo on November 14, “It is early to talk about motives but there is speculation that the victim posted on political themes and had angered politicians or other people from the region. Obviously, with him being a blogger who works with information, this line cannot be neglected.”

Two friends and an acquaintance of Diniz, with whom CPJ spoke, said the blogger worked as a press officer for Marcel Curió, the mayor of Governador Nunes Freire, and blogged about scandals and alleged wrongdoing by other local politicians. Diniz’s blog also featured content from other blogs and local publications in Maranhão as well as some original reporting. In addition to his political opinions, the blog consisted of small-town news and local color features.

Luciano Tavares, a friend of Diniz and a local blogger, told CPJ he believed the killing was related to Diniz’s writing. “He was a blogger and criticized the former mayor. That created a lot of anger among [the former mayor’s] supporters,” said Tavares.

Friends of Diniz told CPJ the blogger had received death threats previously, including in the week of his death. A few days before he was shot Diniz had told colleagues on a WhatsApp group for bloggers that he had received a death threat. Tavares, a member of the WhatsApp group, said Diniz reported all threats to local police. When CPJ contacted the police, a spokesman said they were not providing details about the case.

One friend, who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, said Diniz had received a death threat as early as 2012. “We were always afraid for him,” the person, who has known Diniz since childhood but was afraid to give a name, told CPJ via telephone. “But he was never afraid of saying what he thought.”