By Maria Lopez Conde, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Walgney Assis Carvalho, a photojournalist from the state of Minas Gerais, was shot at point-blank range by a hooded man as he exited a restaurant in the Ipatinga area last week. Carvalho is the fourth journalist believed to have been killed due to his profession so far this year.
Organizations that represent journalists and newspapers in Brazil and abroad expressed outrage over Carvalho’s shooting, which comes amid an increase of violence against reporters.
Last month, Rodrigo Neto, a radio host and columnist for the Ipatinga daily newspaper, Vale do Aço, who often worked with Carvalho at the same newspaper, was shot dead by two gunmen after leaving a bar. According to Military Police, witnesses said Carvalho was shot at close range three times by a man who fled the scene on motorcycle.
Carvalho was a freelance photographer who covered crime and corruption for Vale do Aço, and was often hired by local police to take crime scene pictures. According to Durval Ângelo Andrade (PT), state deputy for Minas Gerais and President of the state’s Human Rights Commission, Carvalho’s killing is connected to the murder of journalist Neto.
In a message to Minister of Human Rights, Maria do Rosário Nunes, Andrade wrote that the Human Rights Commission had “received complaints that [Carvalho] knew who killed Neto,” following the latter’s fatal shooting. This suggests the photographer’s killing could have been motivated by his knowledge of who participated in Neto’s murder.
G1 reported that Andrade asked police to protect Carvalho. “It was negligence from the delegate responsible for Neto’s case, because I warned him that Carvalho was at risk because he knew too much,” Andrade said. “What was done?”
Estado de Minas, a daily newspaper in the southeastern state, reported police officers might be involved in the killings because both Neto and Carvalho were investigating a police death squad when they were shot. Last Friday, two police officers were arrested for their alleged involvement in the murders of the two journalists as local police promised to bring the criminals to justice.
In protest, the New York City-based NGO that promotes press freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), urged authorities to “fully investigate this crime, including any possible link to the murder of Rodrigo Neto. Failure to bring those responsible to justice in both crimes would be symbolic of Brazil’s unacceptable impunity rate for journalist murders,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney warned.
Brazil’s National Association of Newspapers also condemned the killing, which it characterized as an “attack on freedom of expression.” The French NGO, Reporters Without Borders, added that this and other assassinations are clear evidence that Brazil continues to be the deadliest country for journalists in the Americas.
The majority of recent cases in Brazil have been linked to reporters covering local, organized crime and politicians. Few thorough investigations and a seemingly unresponsive justice system at the local level have created a culture of impunity. The fact that local police officers who may have been involved in the murders are often tasked with investigating them exacerbates the problem.
In 2012, Brazil was one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists following the murder of four reporters, according to CPJ’s book, “Attacks on the Press.” Although Brazil is one of the world’s largest democracies, this puts Brazil among war-torn countries like Syria and Somalia.