Two veteran Brazil reporters in hiding over deaths threats

Two veteran Brazil reporters in hiding over deaths threats

Press freedom in Brazil is still deteriorating as threatened journalists and media groups testify.

Brazilian journalist Mauri Konig receives CPJ press freedom award last month in New York

Two Brazilian journalists are in hiding after receiving death threats in connection with exposure of police misconduct, media groups said Wednesday.

Death threats send veteran reporter and press freedom fighter to exile

Mauri Konig, a 46-year-old award-winning journalist from the southern city of Curitiba and writer for Gazeta do Povo (The People's Gazette), has been at an undisclosed location since Monday after he and his family received death threats linked to a story he wrote exposing police misconduct, including embezzlement, said the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism which is led by Konig.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Konig is  one of “Brazil's premier investigative reporters” who received a press freedom award last month from the same organisation. The CPJ recalls that an investigation he conducted in 2005 led to the arrest of  a sex trafficker. 

In 2000 Konig was brutally beaten by suspected Paraguayan police on the Brazilian-Paraguayan border as he was investigating the kidnapping of nine young Brazilians who were to be drafted into the Paraguayan military.

The CPJ reports that “König was brutally beaten with chains, strangled, and left for dead near the Brazilian border by three alleged Paraguayan policemen after he photographed a police station. In 2003, he was forced to abandon his research along the Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina border area after receiving threats from local police. Neither case was ever resolved”.

Security forces, another threat to Brazil’s journalists

Meanwhile, Andre Caramante, a veteran Folha de Sao Paulo reporter, fled abroad with his family in September after he received death threats over his claim that the ex-chief of the feared Rota elite police unit in Sao Paulo used his Facebook page to incite violence during an election campaign. Caramente has been closely following the São Paulo military police (Rota) and often criticised its human rights abuses.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) first covered the case last July after the organisation was contacted by Caramente’s family to call for an investigation into the threats. 

“Telhada should be held accountable for the comments about Caramante that he has posted on Facebook,” said RSF in a statement warning: “The messages posted by the former police commander do not just defame Caramante. They incite hatred against the journalist and expose him to physical danger. Such behaviour is contrary to the rule of law and gives the judicial system grounds for examining Telhada’s eligibility as a candidate.”

Paulo Telhada, the former police commander, was subsequently elected municipal councillor on a tough law and order platform.

"This attempt to muzzle press freedom is not new and not restricted to me," Caramante said in a recent BBC Brazil interview confirming that he and his family had been threatened to be killed on the phone and online. 

Media groups call Brazilian government for action

The Inter-American Press Association reported that six Brazilians journalists were murdered in the country this year, while Reporters Without Borders reported on 11 cases, although a link between the journalists’ work and their deaths has yet to be established in some of the cases.  The Committee to Protect Journalists states that 24 journalists have been killed since 1992 because of their professional activities. 

In his acceptance speech on November 20th, Mauri Konig called the Brazilian government to take a real stand for the protection of its journalists:

“This year the Brazilian government allied itself with India and Pakistan to prevent the adoption of a United Nations action plan that aimed to reduce the killings of journalists and combat impunity. Under pressure, the government backtracked. And the organisation to which I belong, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalists, was invited to collaborate and offer suggestions to be presented to the United Nations.

We now hope that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who in times of political activism was imprisoned and tortured for fighting for democracy and the right to free speech, is committed to the adoption of this plan. It is not to defend ourselves, as some might think, but rather the defense of freedom of expression as one of the pillars of democracy.”

The Doha Centre for Media Freedom has also strongly condemened “the ongoing culture of violence towards journalists in Brazil, and we are urging the authorities to take the necessary steps to stamp out these targeted killings." 

Andre Caramente recently deplored the situation in Brazil in comparison to the threats that journalists face in Mexico by outlaws. “In Mexico journalists are threatened by drug lords. But in Brazil, even after the end of the military dictatorship, there are signs that sectors of the security forces are trying to prevent the disclosure of information."

Sources: DCMF with reports

All rights reserved, Doha Centre for Media Freedom 2017

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