13-Year-Old Case: Brazil Urged to Find Journalist’s Murderer

Impunidad's homepage The murder of a Brazilian journalist still unpunished 13 years after it was committed  is being brought by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The IAPA's purpose is to exert pressure on the Brazilian government to reopen investigations and bring the guilty to justice.

Following several years of investigations and after all local legal and judicial resources had been exhausted – one of the requirements for cases to be eligible for submission to the inter-American human rights organization – the IAPA concluded that the murder of Reinaldo Coutinho da Silva, murdered on August 29, 1995, remains completely unpunished.

The entity argued that "Articles 4 (right to life), 8 and 25 (right to have access to justice) and 13 (right to freedom of expression) of the American Convention on Human Rights were violated."

Da Silva was the editor of the newspaper Cachoeiras Jornal in Cachoeiras de Macacu, Rio de Janeiro, and wrote for the daily Nosso Jornal in São Gonçalo. He was shot 14 times at 7:30 a.m. on the morning of August 29, 1995 while stopped at a traffic light on Edson Avenue in the São Gonçalo neighborhood of Lindo Parque.

Just before he was killed da Silva mentioned to family members that he sensed he was being followed.  At one point he even called the police about a pickup truck that was parked in front of his home for several hours.

The driver of the vehicle took off after apparently being alerted by the sound of the siren of an approaching police patrol car. The incident was not recorded by the police, according to the family.

The day he was killed he was on his way to a meeting of the São Gonçalo Investigations, Studies and Development Institute (Ipedesg), a civic organization he and other members of the local community founded to discuss and seek solutions to municipal problems. That day the group was to meet and talk about the issue of violence with special guest State Security Chief Nilton Cerqueira.

Although the authorities considered various theories the crime was never solved and remains unpunished. Eyewitnesses disappeared and one of the suspects, in custody in connection with another crime, was later released. Other persons believed to have been witnesses were not interviewed by investigators.

From 1997 to date, as part of its Anti-Impunity and Unpunished Crimes project, the IAPA has submitted 20 cases of journalists' murders to the IACHR; 11 have been admitted (4 concerning Brazil, 3 concerning Colombia, 2 Guatemala and 2 Mexico).

As a result, some cases are under negotiation with the respective governments to reopen investigations and legal procedures; others are negotiating financial reparations to victims' families and in others legislative measures to combat impunity are on the table.

Case File

August 29, 1995 – Reinaldo Coutinho da Silva is murdered on his way to a meeting of Ipedesg (Research, Study and Development Institute of São Gonçalo) in São Gonçalo, Rio de Janeiro state. The 72nd Police Precinct of São Gonçalo takes up the investigation into the case.

August 30, 1995 – The president of the Rio de Janeiro State Journalists Union, Gentil da Costa Lima, sends a note to Public Safety Secretary Nilton Cerqueira calling for an investigation into the crime.

September 13, 1995 – Brazil's National Newspaper Association (ANJ), the National Federation of Professional Journalists (FENAJ) and the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) in a letter to Rio de Janeiro Governor Marcello Alencar ask for the murder to be solved immediately.

March 8, 1996 – Military Police Private José da Silva Filho is arrested in Cachoeiras de Macacu. A stolen Gol automobile with false license plates is found at his home. He is believed to have been involved in Coutinho da Silva's murder, but there is no proof and he is freed.

October 1996 – Detective Inspector Jamil Warwar is named by Civil Police Chief Hélio Luz to head the Special Investigation Group set up with the aim of solving major crimes. One of the priorities is the Coutinho da Silva case.

August 2000 – The head of the Rio de Janeiro State Homicide Division, Paulo Passos, says he is going to follow up the investigation.

Personal File

Place of birth: Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, April 27, 1941

Date of murder: August 29, 1995

Age at death: 54

Place and circumstances of murder: Reinaldo Coutinho da Silva was driving his Gol car along Edson Avenue in the Lindo Parque neighborhood of São Gonçalo around 7:30 a.m. on August 29, 1995, when he stopped at a red light at the 2818 block. A man fired 14 shots at him from another automobile.

Marital status: Widower since 1986. His wife, Maria Gilda Henriques da Silva, died in a traffic accident. They were married for 25 years. He spent the remaining years of his life with Marilda da Silva Henriques.

Children (names and ages at the time of their father's death): Mauro Ricardo Henriques da Silva, 31; José Ronaldo Henriques da Silva, 28; Karla Raquel Henriques da Silva, 16. Another son, Rogério Henriques da Silva, died aged 21 with his mother in a car accident in 1986

Education: Graduated high school

Profession/position: Editor and publisher of the newspaper Cachoeiras Jornal, based in Cachoeiras de Macacu, Rio de Janeiro. Contributor to the newspaper Nosso Jornal in São Gonçalo, Rio de Janeiro.

Journalistic background: At age 23 he was hired by the Rádio Difusora de Friburgo radio station in Rio de Janeiro state as an announcer. From 1967 to 1972 he was a columnist and reporter for the newspaper Opinião Pública and wrote for O Fluminense, both in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro.

He was press advisor to the Nicanor Ferreira government in São Gonçalo. From 1974 to 1976 he ran his own company, Efeito Publicidade. He worked at O Fluminense until 1980. At that time he founded the newspaper O Domingo and also worked as São Gonçalo secretary of information and tourism in the Jaime Campos government.

In 1980, together with Fernando Vaqueiro he leased the newspaper O São Gonçalo. The lease lasted one year. From 1982 to 1984 he ran the ad agency Lobby. In 1985, he was named inland manager of O Fluminense, supervising the Rio de Janeiro state inland supplement from Niterói. He remained in this job until 1990, when he founded the newspaper Cachoeiras Jornal in Cachoeiras de Macacu, Rio de Janeiro.

Social activities/hobbies: He wrote poetry, read a lot and liked to walk in the countryside

Civic activities: In 1995, he founded and headed the São Gonçalo Research, Study and Development Institute (Ipedesg). He was a member of the Nova Estrela do Oriente Masonic Lodge in São Gonçalo.

Awards: He was recognized for his work as a journalist by the São Gonçalo press in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974. He received the "Best of the Press" award of the Associação Fluminense de Jornalistas in 1971. He also won an award in 1978 for his contribution to local education in São Gonçalo and was named "Spirit of Human Solidarity Personality of the Year" in 1994.

His name is inscribed on a glass plaque at The Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, along with those of 135 other journalists – 19 of them Brazilians murdered while doing their job.

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