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28 July 2016

As international media attention intensifies on Brazil and its preparations to host the Olympic games from next week, the fatal shooting of political journalist João Miranda do Carmo highlights the horrific risks that such reporters face, PEN International said today.

Do Carmo is the second political online journalist to be killed in Brazil in less than four months. Three political bloggers were killed in the country last year.

PEN is profoundly saddened by these killings,’ said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International.  We urge the Brazilian authorities to act swiftly to protect journalists and punish those who threaten and attack them.

Editor of news website SAD Sem Censura (Santo Antônio do Descoberto Uncensored), Do Carmo was shot dead outside his home in Santo Antônio do Descoberto, Goiás state, near the capital Brasilia, on the night of 24 July. According to reports, at least two men drew up to his house in a car and shouted his name; when the journalist appeared, they shot him multiple times in the chest before driving off. He died immediately.

Do Carmo (54) had reportedly been threatened at least twice in the recent past. He told the police that his car was set on fire in May 2014 in an attack apparently provoked by his reporting, and that he had received death threats in February this year. He did not specify the source of the threats, according to the police.

The journalist was known to have riled local authorities with the reporting on his website, which was often critical of politicians, police and officials. Recent articles on the site included criticisms of the city’s administration including unpaved roads and a local tax on rubbish collection, as well as complaints from local municipal employees about late salary payments.

According to Brazilian journalists’ associations, do Carmo was a member of the Communist Party of Brazil and had been planning to run in municipal elections later this year.

The police have opened an investigation and are seeking to establish whether the shooting was a contract killing, according to media reports.

Do Carmo’s killing comes less than four months after that of another political online journalist, Manoel Messias Pereira (also known as Manoel Benhur) on 9 April. Owner of news website sediverte.com.br, Messias was shot by unidentified men while riding his motorbike in Grajaú, Maranhão state, and later died in hospital.

The journalist reportedly wrote a blog on local politics for the website and reportedly also worked as an advisor to the mayor’s office in Grajaú. The police investigation into Messias’ death is said to be following various lines of enquiry but none are related to his writing.

In all, 24 bloggers and print journalists have been murdered in Brazil since 2004, according to PEN International’s research, the majority of which remain fully or partially unsolved. Ninety per cent of those killed between 2004 and 2014 are reported to have investigated alleged political or police corruption or to have opposed local officials in their journalism or political activities.

PEN International calls on the federal and state authorities in Brazil to conduct swift and thorough investigations into all unsolved killings of journalists and bloggers, taking full account of their work as a possible motive, and to ensure that the perpetrators – both the gunmen and the masterminds – are prosecuted and punished. Further, PEN urges the authorities to take urgent steps to strengthen and make effective protection mechanisms for at-risk journalists.

For further information, please contact Tamsin Mitchell at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN. Tel: +44 (0) 2074050338, Fax: +44(0) 2074050339. Email: Tamsin.Mitchell@pen-international.org

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