Fernandes, a blogger and teacher, was shot dead in the early hours of October 25 as he left his house for work at an elementary school in Piripiri, a town of about 60,000 people in the northern state of Piauí, around 2,600 km north of Rio de Janeiro.
Fernandes was in his car outside his house when at least one attacker approached him on a red motorcycle and shot him at least three times, according to initial reports in the Brazilian media. Photographs showed his blood-stained body slumped in the driver’s seat. There were no clear signs of theft, according to reports.
“We can’t say yet what this was about, there are several lines of investigation,” João Paulo Sousa, the clerk at Piripiri’s civil police who are in charge of the inquiry, told CPJ by phone. A police official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the case, told CPJ on November 8, 2016 that authorities had not discarded Fernandes’s blog as a motive, but that it was not their primary line of investigation. Neither official would say what other motives were being investigated.
Fernandes, who taught full time at a local elementary school, also wrote a blog called Olhos de Águia, or Eagle Eyes, which covered events in Piripiri. Started on September 2, 2015, the blog’s mission statement said it aimed to bring information “about Piripiri and the region, keeping people informed about the facts and daily goings on in all sectors of Piripiri society. Columnist Luciano Fernandes will deliver first-hand news in a clear and objective way.”
The blog covered local stories, with a focus on crime and political events, and coverage was also given to promoting a candidate for city council. News items included a post about a man allegedly killing his dog with an ax and two women pictured fighting in a street. Fernandes also posted local gossip on his Facebook page.
“A lot of people are speculating that [his killing] was because of what he put on Facebook,” Moises Lopes, the author of another local blog who was friends with Fernandes, told CPJ via telephone. “He would write about people’s personal life, the cheating and the affairs, without naming names. And the speculation is that someone didn’t like it. But it was popular and local people encouraged him to keep doing it. He didn’t make money from it, he only made enemies.”
Lopes said he hired Fernandes to write for his Piripiri Reporter blog, which covers local news, sports, and entertainment last year, but said he ended their relationship when he found out Fernandes was making up stories.
“People told him stories and he would alter them to make them more interesting,” Lopes said. “We noticed it three or four or five times. I explained that our site is serious and credible and that we needed to preserve our credibility.”
Lopes said Fernandes told him he had been threatened, but he could not tell CPJ exactly why the threats were made or by whom. Other local news outlets also reported Fernandes had received threats.