CURITIBA, Brazil -- The head of a newspaper renowned for reporting on crime and corruption was shot to death Tuesday in a town outside Rio de Janeiro, the latest in a string of apparent assassinations of Brazilian journalists.
Jose Roberto Ornelas de Lemos, 45, was shot 44 times by four men while he was drinking at a neighborhood bar in the town of Nova Iguacu, witnesses said, and police believe the motive may have been to silence the reporting done by his newspaper, Hora H.
“We aren’t ruling out any hypothesis, but our main hypothesis is that Lemos may have been killed because of the combative profile of the journal he was in charge of,” said police officer Marcos Henrique de Oliveira Alves, according to the newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo.
“The newspaper was very polemical. It criticized the police, criminals, and politicians. He often received threats,” said Luciano Ornelas de Lemos, brother of the victim.
Brazilian journalists have been the victims of a wave of homicides recently, most of them far from major urban centers. The city of Nova Igaucu is within the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second-largest city.
If police suspicions are correct, this would be the fifth slaying of a journalist this year with an apparent link between the crime and the victim’s work, according to the international organization Reporters Without Borders.
“Brazil is becoming more and more dangerous for journalists,” said Delphine Halgand, U.S. director of Reporters Without Borders. “Though the country doesn’t have the record that Mexico does in recent years, the situation in Brazil recently has been extremely alarming and could be approaching Mexican levels of violence.”
Earlier this year, journalists Walgney Assis Carvalho and Rodrigo Neto, known for reporting on police corruption at the Vale do Aço newspaper, were gunned down in separate attacks in the state of Minas Gerais.
In February, radio host Mafaldo Bezerra Goes, 61, was killed in Jaguaribe, Ceara, in a crime suspected to have been carried out by drug traffickers.
Last year, crime reporter Andre Camarante at Folha de S.Paulo, Brazil’s largest-circulation newspaper, fled the country after receiving threats based on his work. Reporters Without Borders charged that former Sao Paulo police chief Adriano Lopes Lucinda Telhada had exposed Camarante to danger through comments posted on his Facebook page.
Hora H is a gritty daily newspaper known for uncompromising depictions of violence and denuncations of organized crime, political corruption, and police, including illegal police mafias known as milicias.
Rio will be one of the host cities for the upcoming FIFA Confederation’s Cup international soccer tournament, seen as many as a test run for the city’s hosting of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. In the run-up to these events, the city is trying to crack down on its crime problems, in part by taking back many of its slums from armed gangs.
The attack on Lemos was a cowardly “attempt to stop that man’s daily work against violence and corruption,” said a statement posted on the Hora H website Thursday. “They silenced one voice, but they didn’t silence the choir.”