Violence and Death Threats a Common Working Hazard for Brazilian Journalists

Lúcio Flávio PintoBrazilian journalist Lúcio Flávio Pinto was threatened by a businessman when leaving a restaurant in Belém, the capital of the northern state of Pará, on Saturday, December 10, 2011. The journalist himself published this news in his newspaper.

Pinto, the editor of Jornal Pessoal, filed a complaint with the police. He says businessman Rodrigo Chaves told him to stop mentioning his name in his newspaper, otherwise Chaves would beat him up.

Chaves is involved in a lawsuit together with the owners of a major communication group in Northern Brazil. They are accused of taking part in fraud involving 4 million reais (about US$ 2.2 million) from a government fund. The alleged crime was first reported in “Jornal Pessoal”.

Pinto was invited to Abraji’s annual conference on investigative journalism in 2008, but could not fly from Belém to São Paulo because of a lawsuit against him filed by the owners of the communication group, Romulo and Ronaldo Maiorana.

In a separate case, the Federal Prosecution office in Altamira received a complaint on December 12 of death threats against journalist Ruy Sposati, who works for the movement Xingu Alive Forever and was covering a story on workers being laid off from the company that will build the Belo Monte gate.

The threats were issued soon after the reporter had arrived at the company offices. He had heard that police officers were escorting the workers from the construction site to the office. According to Sposati, a man in a silver van approached him aggressively and shouted “I’ll kill you right now.”

After Sposati identified himself as a journalist, the man tried to rip the camera from his hands. The altercation only ended with the intervention of the workers themselves who were waiting to receive pay-outs for the termination of their contracts. The police officers did not intervene.

Another journalist intimidated was Claudio Dantas who works for Isto É magazine. He was threatened last week by Ailton Queiroz, brother of the governor of Brasília, Agnelo Queiroz, during an interview by phone.

According to Dantas, Ailton was aware of the reporter’s routine and made reference to the motorcycle he uses to go to work every day. Ailton threatened Dantas by saying, “The only thing is that sometimes it [the motorcycle] catches fire and explodes”.

The journalist was writing a report on the sudden enrichment of the Queiroz family. Ailton’s story is the result of a 2008 report that he authored about the wiretaps on the Supreme Court of Brazil.

When Dantas contacted him, Ailton reacted with anger to the phone call. “I won’t allow anyone snooping into my life,” he is said to have told the journalist. “You think you’re dealing with some moron? You take care of yourself.”

The journalist has been in contact with the police about the threats and gave the officers a copy of the conversation.

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