Márcio Pin and Otávio Alves, the owners of Tribuna do Estado and Vida Mídia newspapers, were arrested May 12 in Brasnorte, Mato Grosso, accused of attempting to extort the city’s mayor, Mauro Rui Heisler, Terra reports.
According to O Globo, the city’s treasury secretary, Joaquim Alexandre de Oliveira, said the pair allegedly said they wound create a newspaper supporting the mayor for $67,000. When Heisler refused, the journalists allegedly asked for $9,200 to not publish articles criticizing the mayor. The mayor worked with the police to arrange a sting operation for when the mayor was supposed to pay the bribe.
Pin and Alves say that are victims of a setup and that they were invited to the city by the mayor. “It was [Heisler] who invited us to start this paper in Brasnorte, the mayor said he was getting a lot of bad press and wanted a media outlet to defend himself,” they said, quoted by SBT.
The Mato Gross Journalists’ Syndicate said it opposes any acts of extortion, and emphasized that neither suspect was a member of a union nor did either have a journalism degree. “We stress that this deviation in personal conduct is not a journalistic practice and is a crime, with penalties prescribed that the law.”
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.