Editor who led fight against Brazilian corruption murdered by gunmen

 

Rio de Janeiro

Journalists in Brazil are calling for more protection after a journalist who campaigned against corruption was shot dead, just days after the murder of another journalist.

Paulo Rodrigues, known as Paulo Rocaro, was shot 12 times on Sunday by two men on a motorbike as he drove through the town of Ponta Parã, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. He was editor-in chief of the paper Jornal da Praça and news editor of the website mercosulnews.com in the same town. The border town is known for its connection with drug trafficking between Paraguay and Brazil.

The gunmen hit their target five times, and Rodrigues, 51, died in hospital hours later.

Police are now investigating the possibility that it was a contract killing connected with Rodrigues’ tireless campaigning against corruption. He made his name exposing suspected drug traffickers in the area.

Commercial director of Jornal da Praça Pedro Zadyr said: “Apart from losing a great professional, we have lost a great friend. Paulo had not even received any threats to his life. We have no idea what happened, but Ponto Porã is a tough place to be a reporter. Cross the street and you are literally in Paraguay, and there is a lot of crime here on the border.”

The murder came just three days after the discovery of the body of Mario Randolfo Marques, the 50 year old editor of the campaigning website Vassouras na Net. Mr Marques covered local corruption, including in the judiciary, and had already survived at least one assassination attempt. His body was found along with that of his partner.

The union of journalists in Mato Grosso do Sul, released a statement yesterday urging the authorities to act quickly in investigating the crime. The international Committee to Protect Journalists recently put Brazil in sixth place in a list of the most violent countries for reporters to work, with six deaths in 2011. Last month, Brazil dropped 41 places to 99 in a ranking of freedom of the press by Reporters Without Borders.

The failure of the authorities to effectively investigate crimes against journalists has been cited as one of the reasons for the increase. Ricardo Rabelo, editor of Rio de Janeiro tabloid Bafafà, said: “Impunity is a problem. A crime will be investigated only if it has big repercussions. The murder of journalists should also be investigated by the Federal Police who are more independent than state police.

“In Brazil, a reporter covering controversial stories should be protected by anonymity, as the reporter’s family also frequently receive threats. This kind of crime must be stopped, as freedom of expression is essential for a healthy democracy.”

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