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CAMERAMAN KILLED AMID CRIME WAVE

A television cameraman was gunned down on 5 January amid a crime wave in Maceió, northeastern Brazil, report ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Walter Lessa de Oliveira, a cameraman for TV Assembléia, Alagoas state legislature's television station, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting while waiting at a bus stop on the outskirts of Maceió, the capital of Alagoas. According to RSF, police have identified a drug trafficker nicknamed "Aranha" ("Spider") as the killer.

Revenge appears to be the most likely motive, says RSF: Oliveira had filmed footage of Aranha that was broadcast on state television. But police have not ruled out that Oliveira was shot while resisting an attempted robbery, although nothing was taken from him.

"Brazil's northeast continues to be a high-risk region for journalists," RSF says. "Without trying to anticipate the results of the investigation, we think it quite plausible that this was an act of revenge by a drug trafficker, especially as organised crime is so active there."

According to RSF, Oliveira's death came amid a surge in armed crime in Maceió in which 16 people were murdered from 5 to 7 January. The state police have been on strike for five months for more pay and the authorities seem powerless to deal with the crime wave.

ARTICLE 19 reports that in 2007, one journalist was murdered and two were shot and wounded for investigating organised crime in the country, but the number may be underestimated because Brazil lacks "appropriate national monitoring."

Oliveira was the former director of the Alagoas jounalists' union, and had worked at TV Gazeta for more than 20 years.

Visit these links:
- ARTICLE 19: http://tinyurl.com/39zo67
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=24979
(15 January 2008)

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