Newspaper readers throughout the Americas are being urged by theÂ Inter American Press Association (IAPA) to sign an open letter to Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva calling on him to have light shed on the death of television program host José Carlos Mesquita on March 10, 1998, in Ouro Preto do Oeste, in the northern Brazilian state of Rondônia.
Mesquita had exposed in his TV show drug trafficking and misuse of funds intended for the health sector. Several irregularities in the investigation into his murder have contributed to the crime continuing to go unpunished. A suspect has been arrested but the mastermind remains free.
In the last 19 years a total of 344 journalists have been murdered in the Americas and more than a dozen have gone missing. In 22 murder cases that the IAPA has been following up on in Brazil, there have been 33 convictions and currently 21 persons are in prison.
The IAPA has gone before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), filing formal complaints concerning a number of killers of journalists or those responsible for the disappearance of others going unpunished.
Last week it submitted to the IACHR the case of Brazilian journalist Reinaldo Coutinho da Silva, editor of the newspaper Cachoeiras Jornal in Cachoeiras de Macacu, Rio de Janeiro state, murdered on August 29, 1995.
Through ads in some 400 newspapers throughout the Western Hemisphere the IAPA is inviting readers to join, through the Web siteÂ http://www.impunidad.com , its campaign titled "Let's Put an End to Impunity in Crimes Against Journalists."
Since launching the campaign, more than 12,000 signatures have reached the relevant authorities, urging them to ensure greater conscientiousness in identifying the guilty, bringing them to justice and meting out due punishment.
The initiative is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.