Newspaper owner murdered at home in rural Rio de Janeiro state

On the night of Feb. 13, journalist Pedro Palma, 47, was shot to death in Miguel Pereira, a town located in rural Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, says news organization G1. The military police say that two individuals on a motorcycle shot Palma three times in front of his home. He died immediately.

Palma owned the newspaper “Panorama Regional,” which is published in Miguel Pereira, Paty do Alferes, Vassouras, Mendes, Engenheiro Paulo de Frontin, Barra do Pirai, Pirai, Valenca, Paracambi and Paraiba do Sul, all municipalities in southern Rio de Janeiro.

The motivation for the shooting and the identity of the attackers are still under investigation. Murilo Montanha, the delegate in charge of the case, said there had been no known, threats against the journalist.

“We know that the media doesn’t make everyone happy, but we don’t have any knowledge of any threats that this attack could have spawned from,” Montanha told G1, adding that they are considering any and all possibilities.

According to what a “Panorama Regional” photographer told EFE, Palma “didn’t have any declared enemies,” but he regularly used the newspaper and social media to condemn wrong-doings that occurred in the political realm of Miguel Pereira, a locality of almost 25 thousand inhabitants, 100 kilometers south of Rio.

Another friend of de Palma, the former secretary of environment Miguel Pereira Mauro Peixoto, said the journalist mentioned he had received threats, but he didn’t think they would actually happen, reported O Globo.

The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism condemned the crime and made a preliminary  assessment.

“Everything points to the criminals wanting to stop Pedro Palma’s journalistic work – a flagrant attack against freedom of the press and an attack on the residents’ right to information. Abraji hopes that the perpetrators will be identified and prosecuted. Impunity in cases like these can provide incentive for new attacks against the press and its workers,” said the organization.

The president of the Union of Professional Journalists of Sur Fluminense, JC Moreira, also demanded a rigorous investigation into the journalists’ death.

“We want the crime solved. A journalist speaks the truth and ends up brutally murdered,” he said, in an interview with G1.

The organization highlighted that in 2012, another press professional working south of Rio de Janeiro was murdered. Mario Lopes Randolfo and his girlfriend, Maria Aparecida, were executed in Barra do Pirai. Randolfo was the editor of a website based in Vassouras and was known to condemn the actions of public officials in the region. Before being murdered, Randolfo was the victim of an attack in his home.

Two years later, the crime is still unsolved.

“The investigations were pretty far along. The delegate of Barria do Pirai (Mario Omena) had gathered circumstancial evidence, but there was a delay on the justice’s part. Even so, I still have hope that the case will be solved,” said Moreira.

The increase in violence against journalists in Brazil worries international and national organizations that defend freedom of the press. According to a report by Reporters Without Borders, published on Feb. 12, five journalists were murdered in Brazil during 2013, making it the deadliest country for the press on the American continent.

Another report made by Brazilian journalistic organizations and presented to Jose Eduardo Cardozo, the minister of justice, says that in 2013 there were 175 cases of violence against press workers. The president of the Brazilian Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters (ABERT), Daniel Slaviero, said that there has been an “exponential increase” in the violence against journalists since June 2013, when a wave of protests swept Brazil.

study published by Abraji shows 118 cases of documented attacks against journalists during the protests. On Feb. 6, Santiago Andrade, a cameraman for Band TV, died a few days after being hit on the head by an explosive while covering a protest in Rio.

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.