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Two Brazilian journalists murdered in two days

Bulls stand at a cattle feed lot in the Amazon on 28 June 2017 near Chupinguaia, Rondonia state, Brazil
Bulls stand at a cattle feed lot in the Amazon on 28 June 2017 near Chupinguaia, Rondonia state, Brazil

Mario Tama/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 19 January 2018.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this week's targeted killings of two Brazilian journalists in the space of two days and urges investigators to focus on the probability that their murders were linked to their work. One was a website reporter who covered corruption, the other was a controversial radio show host.

Ueliton Brizon was riding a motorcycle with his wife on 16 January 2018 in the Santo Antônio district of Cacoal, the municipality where he lived in the northwestern state of Rondônia, when he was approached by a gunman on another motorcycle, who calmly shot several times and then drove off.

Brizon often wrote about local political corruption and mismanagement for the Jornal de Rondônia, the online newspaper that he owned. He was also politically active and worked with the Humanist Party of Solidarity (PHS). A statement by the Association of Cacoal Journalists (ACJ) said he was regarded as ethical and serious about his work.

Jefferson Pureza Lopes, the host of a programme on local radio station Beira Rio FM, was shot by two masked gunmen who burst into his home in Edealina in the west-central state of Goiás on 17 January.

The Edealina police said they would consider all possibilities and recognized that his controversial programme, which covered local events and had many listeners in the region, "did not please the local governors." The radio station was the target of an arson attack in November 2017, the perpetrators of which were never identified.

"The authorities in Rondônia and Goiás must quickly identify those responsible for these cowardly and horrible murders and bring them to justice," said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF's Latin America bureau.

"Those investigating these murders must focus above all on the likelihood that they were linked to the victims' work, especially as violence against the media - in particular, critical and independent journalists - keeps on recurring in Brazil to the point of constituting one of the main threats to free speech."

At least 26 Brazilian journalists have been killed in connection with their work since 2010. In the most recent previous incident, Verbo Online news website reporter Gabriel Barbosa da Silva narrowly escaped a murder attempt late last month in Embu das Artes, a municipality in Sao Paulo state.

Brazil is ranked 103rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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