Valério Luiz de Oliveira

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On July 5, 2012, an unidentified gunman on a motorcycle shot Valério Luiz de Oliveira at least four times outside his offices at Rádio Jornal 820 AM, where he hosted a sports program, news reports said; he died at the scene.

Oliveira was known for his critical commentary on Rádio Jornal and the independent television broadcaster PUC TV regarding the management of the local football team Atlético Goianiense, according to those reports.

Less than a month before the killing, Atlético Goianiense’s directors had sent a letter to PUC TV and Rádio Jornal informing both outlets that their employees were prohibited from entering the club’s premises. The letter described Oliveira as a “persona non grata.”

Manoel de Oliveira, a well-known sports commentator and the journalist’s father, said he believed his son’s death was related to his reporting and that he had "lost his son because of football," the TV station Globo reported. Lorena Nascimento de Oliveira, the journalist’s wife, said he had told her he was concerned by problems he had with people involved with the sport, the Globo report said. She did not offer further details.

The management of Atlético Goianiense put out a statement condemning the murder and calling for a full investigation. "Luiz was known for his commentary, which at times angered some sectors of the club, but on the other hand, his strong opinions also informed the club’s decision-making and helped Atlético grow," the statement said.

According to multiple news reports, an investigation by the Goiás state civil police was concluded in February 2013 and identified five men as the alleged perpetrators:

  • Former vice-president of Atlético Goianiense Maurício Borges Sampaio, the alleged mastermind, who allegedly ordered the killing in retaliation to Oliveira’s critical reporting of the football club
  • Military police officer Ademá Figuerêdo Aguiar Filho, the alleged shooter
  • Military police officer Djalma Gomes da Silva, an alleged accomplice
  • Urbano de Carvalho Malta, an alleged accomplice and a former employee of Sampaio
  • Marcus Vinícius Pereira Xavier, a butcher and an alleged accomplice

In March 2013, the Goiás State Public Prosecutor charged the five men for Oliveira’s murder, according to news reports. In August 2014, the Second Criminal Court in Goiânia decided the accused should face trial by jury, reports said.

CPJ emailed Atlético Goianiense’s press office but did not receive any reply. Luiz Carlos da Silva Neto, Sampaio’s lawyer, replied to CPJ’s emailed request for comment by sending three legal petitions—a complaint against the case’s prosecutors, another against the judge, and a petition to the Goiás Court to replace the judge—but did not answer CPJ’s questions. Sampaio has denied involvement in the killing.

CPJ emailed the lawyer representing Malta, Aguiar Filho, and Silva for comment, but received no response. According to news reports, Xavier confessed to participating in Oliveira’s killing but later changed his testimony, and the other four accused denied any participation. In a 2022 interview, Xavier’s lawyer said he did not commit any crime.

All five suspects allegedly involved in Oliveira’s murder remain at liberty while awaiting trial, according to news reports and Valério Luiz Filho, the journalist’s son, who spoke to CPJ by phone. 

Since 2014, the suspects’ trial was repeatedly delayed due to multiple appeals from defense attorneys and several decisions by the Goiás Court of Justice.

In December 2019, Judge Jesseir Coelho de Alcântara announced he was withdrawing from the trial, saying he could not proceed because the court lacked the necessary resources for the trial.

In February 2020, the new judge assigned to the case set a trial date of June 23, but the case was then suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to news reports.

On March 14, 2022, the Goiás Court of Justice postponed the trial to May 2 because Sampaio’s lawyer at the time abruptly resigned, according to news reports, a statement from local press freedom groups, and Valério Luiz Filho.

On May 2, the court postponed the trial again after the lawyers representing Sampaio left the court on the first morning, claiming that the judge presiding over the case was not impartial, according to news reports. The trial was rescheduled for June 13, and the court ordered the lawyers to pay about 121,000 Brazilian reais (about US$24,000) for leaving the trial, according to those reports.

On June 13, the trial started but was interrupted the following day after one of the jurors felt sick and broke the jury’s isolation protocols, leading the court to suspend the trial and dissolve the jury, rescheduling a new trial to December 5, according to news reports and the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism. On June 24, the Court ordered the trial moved up to November 7 because of the FIFA World Cup, according to news reports.

“The ongoing impunity in this case is a license to kill journalists,” Oliveira’s son told CPJ.

“Justice, in this case, is in the public interest. The resolution of this case could bring greater protection for freedom of expression and the press, or it could bring greater fear, depending on the outcome,” Valério Luiz Filho told CPJ in an interview in April 2022.