Police arrest man suspected of participating in the murder of Brazilian journalist

On July 27, authorities arrested a man suspected of participating in the murder of Brazilian journalist João Miranda do Carmo, according to news site G1.

Douglas Ferreira de Morais, 40, was head of the surveillance guards at the city hall of Santo Antônio do Descoberto, and was identified by a witness to the crime. He denies the charge.

Police Chief Fernando Gama said in an interview with G1 that a witness had identified Morais as the driver of the car used in the murder.

Police are investigating whether Carmo’s death was motivated by his journalistic work.

"We are working with the possibility that the homicide was motivated by his professional occupation. Everything points to the work of João Miranda, who had targeted the criminal community and political environment,” the police chief said to newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo.

According to the publication, the journalist wrote on blogs and news sites criticizing local politicians, drug dealers and hitmen in the region. He also was a considering running for municipal councilor.

Family and friends of the journalist reported that he had been receiving threats.

“He reported that he was being threatened after the last two posts that he wrote, including on social networks,” said friend Jonas Batista to G1.

According to Batista, the intimidations had been happening for about six months and Carmo “was afraid of the many threats he was receiving.”

Authorities also are investigating whether an incident in 2014, when the journalist’s car was set on fire, has a connection to the murder, G1 reported.

Freedom of expression organizations condemned the killing and called for urgency to clarify the circumstances of the crime.

“The urgent investigation and action to identify those behind the attack and the ones that carried it out are the best means of preventing impunity and lack of justice in such cases of violence,” said Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information at the Inter American Press Association.

The Office of The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) demanded that preventive and effective measures are taken to protect journalists in the country.

"The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the State to strengthen the protection mechanisms for communicators in all the regions in Brazil and to provide a budget for its functioning,” the statement read.

UNESCO warned of the consequences on the press’ work if those responsible for the crime go unpunished.

“Impunity for crimes against journalists threatens media workers’ ability to do their work and the public’s access to independent and diverse sources of information,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in an organization press release.

Article 19 Brazil warned that the absence of a swift response by the authorities could lead to intensification of crimes like this. It said that the number of cases of serious violations against journalists in Brazil, such as murder, attempted murder and threat of death, increased by 67 percent last year.

Carmo is the third journalist murdered in the country this year.

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.