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Shots fired at Manaus daily after stories about another Amazonas city's corruption links

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is very concerned about the safety of the staff of the Manaus-based "Diário de Amazonas" after shots were fired on its headquarters on 21 June 2008. The police seem to think the culprits were disgruntled former employees but RSF notes that the newspaper had just covered several corruption cases allegedly implicating the government of Coari, a city 360 kilometres west of Manaus.

"We are relieved to learn that no one was hurt in the shooting attack on 'Diário de Amazonas'," RSF said. "But, as the Brazilian press pointed out, the attack came barely 24 hours after the arrests of several of the mayor of Coari's alleged close associates who had been linked by the newspaper to serious crimes."

RSF added: "It is vital that the police investigate the possibility that these reports were the motive for the attack. The newspaper's open opposition to the government of Amazonas state must not affect the investigation, and its staff must be given proper police protection."

Eleven shots were fired at the "Diário de Amazonas" building in central Manaus at about 4:30 a.m. (local time) on 21 June by two individuals on a motorcycle armed with PT-380 type pistols. The national press quoted police sources as saying six bullets damaged the main entrance and five others shattered windows on the first storey, where the newspaper's president and vice-president have their offices.

Surveillance cameras installed outside the building should have recorded the incident but little has been revealed about the investigation launched by the Amazonas state public security department. The "O Estado de São Paulo" newspaper said the police were working on the theory that the shooting was an act of revenge by former employees.

"Diário de Amazonas" is known for its hard-hitting investigative reporting on the local political scene. It revealed on 15 January that the state government had paid a private company 18 million reals (approx. 7 million euros) for work that was never done.

This shooting attack came a day after a federal police operation code-named "Vorax", in which 23 people linked professionally or personally to Coari mayor Adail Pinheiro were arrested. A week earlier, "Diário de Amazonas" published transcripts of phone taps pointing to the existence of shady deals between the Coari municipal government and the Amazonas state court.

A week before that, "Diário de Amazonas" linked the Coari municipal government to alleged corruption, embezzlement and, according to the daily "O Globo", even child prostitution.

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