Jefferson Pureza Lopes was killed on the night of January 17, 2018, in Brazil’s Goiás state, located southwest of Brasilia. Lopes was at his home in Edealina, a town of around 4,000 people, when two men with motorcycles shot him dead as he was watching television, police and news reports said.
Friends and colleagues told CPJ and the local news site Globo 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.
Lopes, 39, worked as a radio presenter for Beira Rio FM, an Edealina-based station 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.
The station director Cristina 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.
Leandro told CPJ Lopes' house was shot up in the fall of 2016. 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.
According to Leandro, Lopes reported this incident to police, and pressed charges against the man who put a gun to his head. However, the accused never showed up to court and the case stymied, Leandro said.
In a separate incident, the building where Beira Rio FM is based was also set on fire in November 2017, the second such arson attack in a year.
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."