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Death threats made against critical current affairs television programme host in Imperatriz

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 7 May 2007 IAPA press release:

IAPA protests murder, threats to journalists in Brazil
It calls for investigation into new homicide in Guatemala

MIAMI, Florida (May 7, 2007) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today condemned the murder of a journalist in Brazil, in apparent reprisal for his investigative reporting, and threats being issued against another, and called on the Brazilian authorities to conduct an immediate investigation so as to bring those responsible promptly to justice.

Luiz Carlos Barbon, 37, a reporter for Radio Porto FM radio station, daily newspaper Jornal JC Regional and weekly Jornal do Porto, was murdered on May 5 in Porto Ferreira city in São Paulo state. Barbon, well known for his exposures of wrongdoing in the local city government, was in a bar when two masked men dressed in black on a motorcycle approached. One of them fired two shots, hitting him in a leg and the stomach, causing his death.

One police theory is that Barbon's murder may have been linked to his work as a reporter. In 2003 he had made a report, which had nationwide repercussion, on the alleged involvement of five city council members and four local businessmen in the corruption of minors. His family said that because of the constant threats he then received, he had had to shut down his newspaper, Realidade.

"We regard this crime as an extremely serious matter which the local officials should investigate promptly and fully," declared Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

Marroquín offered condolences to Barbon's family and colleagues and reminded Brazilian authorities that the murder of journalists and other actions against them "must be investigated right away and severely punished," as set out in the IAPA-sponsored Declaration of Chapultepec, signed in May 2006 by Brazil's President Inácio Lula da Silva.

In a separate incident in Brazil, the IAPA also called for an investigation into threats issued to Justino Oliveira Filho, host of the independent current affairs program Aqui e Agora broadcast by TV Difusora in Imperatriz city, in the northeastern state of Maranhão. In the program Oliveira reports on poverty in the area and criticizes wrongdoing in local government. The show also features political, crime and sports news.

He had been receiving death threats since February this year, when the program first aired. He said that the most serious threat occurred on March 22, when he was in a restaurant and four men - among them two sons of the mayor of the neighboring city of Davinópolis - angrily berated him for criticizing their father. Threats have continued by telephone.

The IAPA also called on the Guatemalan Attorney General's Office to look into the murder of Mario Rolando López Sánchez, soundman for Radio Sonora radio station. On May 3 he was just a few yards from his home in Guatemala City when he was attacked by unidentified assailants who shot him several times. López Sánchez died shortly afterwards in hospital. Although the motive for the killing was not immediately known, his colleagues rule out the possibility that it was a robbery attempt gone bad, as nothing was taken from the automobile he was driving and he still had his personal documents on him.

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