Crime reporter murdered in northeastern Brazil

AP News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2010 3:07 PM
Crime reporter murdered in northeastern Brazil

A veteran reporter who had often received death threats for his reports on crime was gunned down in front of his house in northeastern Brazil, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

Francisco Gomes de Medeiros died instantly when he was shot five times on Monday in the city of Caico, said Augusto Bezerra, spokesman for the public safety department of Rio Grande do Norte state.

Bezerra said by telephone that police have arrested a former inmate, Joao Francisco dos Santos, who confessed he killed Medeiros because he felt that coverage of a robbery he committed in 2007 convinced the judge to sentence him 18 months in jail instead of the seven months he expected.

Bezerra said police also are investigating whether the murder could be linked to Medeiros' reports that candidates for the state assembly traded cocaine for votes in the Oct. 3 elections.

Medeiros referred to himself as F. Gomes for his radio audience and wrote under that name for articles published by the Tribuna do Norte newspaper and on his blog.

"He is one more victim of the violence committed against journalists that seek to tell the truth to society," Emanuel Soares Carneiro, president of the Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Stations said in a statement.

Sidney Silva, who worked with him at Radio Caico, described Medeiros as "one of most courageous reporters in this part of Brazil."

"He was always exposing drug trafficking schemes and the activities of organized crime groups in the state," Silva said. "He was an excellent person and professional who will be missed."

The Inter American Press Association condemned the murder and called on local officials to "act promptly to bring the murderers to justice."

The association's president, Alejandro Aguirre, said in an emailed statement that the crime "appeared to be linked to the victim's work as a journalist."

One day before Medeiros was killed, three men broke into the home of the owner of a small newspaper in Sao Paulo state, Wanderley dos Reis, and shot and killed him. Police said they have no suspects.

Reporters Without Borders said on its website it hopes police will investigate the "possibility that Reis' murder was linked his work."

The killings took place the same week that the advocacy group released its latest annual ranking of press freedom, which raised Brazil from 71st place to 58th place.

According to media watchdog, New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 20 Brazilian journalists, most of whom exposed cases of corruption were murdered between 1994 and 2009.