IAPA supports plea to federalize investigation of Brazilian journalist’s 2012 murder

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  • September 11, 2013

By Travis Knoll

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) asked Brazilian federal courts on Tuesday to take up the murder case of Brazilian sports journalist Valério Luiz de Oliveira who was murdered in the state of Goiás on July 5, 2012.

IAPA is supporting the request made by Luiz de Oliveira’s son and representative of the case, Valério Luiz Filho, who in a Sept. 3 public hearing at the Goiás State Legislative Assembly described the courts' difficulties in clearing the 2012 crime.

Members of the Military Police as well as a local butcher are suspected of carrying at the murder as a retaliation for the journalist’s criticism of the local sports team Atlético Clube Goianense. This February, authorities arrested former vice president of the team, Mauricio Borges Sampai, but all suspects implicated in the murder were later released when they filed a habeas corpus.

Luiz Filho hopes that federalizing the crime bypasses local interests, which he says impedes the trial of military officers in the province.

“We cannot allow this to continue to happen, that is why now is the opportune moment to federalize murder cases like those of my father,” he said.

Claudio Paolillo, the chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, said his organization “supports the initiative to request that the trial be held at a federal level, in order to ensure greater transparency in a case involving public figures.”

Luiz de Oliveria's death has garnered national attention and outrage. In July, hundreds participated in protests marking the one-year anniversary of the journalist's death, O Globo reported.

In Brazil, where impunity for the murders of journalists has grown (nine unresolved in 2013), a congressional proposal to federalize investigations of crimes against journalists has been gaining support.

Other countries in Latin America have also sought to federalize crimes against journalists or change their classification in the hopes of attracting more serious investigations and solving them.

Mexico, in response to international outcry over the high rate of journalism related crimes, passed a law last year asserting federal jurisdiction over the murder of journalists. However, federal authorities have been criticized for not having employed its new faculties and failing to absorb crimes against journalists from the states' jurisdictions. According to a 2013 UN Report, Mexico still has a high level of impunity with 15 unresolved cases of journalistic deaths.

Press freedom organizations have also called authorities in Colombia to declare the killings of several journalists crimes against humanity in order to prevent a statute of limitations that files away any crime that has remained unsolved for 20 years.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.