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Journalists covering some of Brazil's poorest neighbourhoods are finding themselves threatened by the drug traffickers and organised criminals who inhabit them. Armed and hooded men threatened to kill three Brazilian photographers covering a weekend visit by a mayoral candidate to one of Rio de Janeiro's shantytowns, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) report.

The photographers, covering the mayoral campaign for the national dailies "O Globo", "O Dia" and "Jornal do Brasil", were travelling through the Vila de Cruzeiro slum and taking pictures with Marcelo Crivella, one of Rio's candidates for mayor, on 26 July when they were approached by at least two hooded men on a motorcycle, one pointing a rifle.

The men, allegedly drug traffickers, told the reporters they were forbidden from leaving the shantytown unless they erased all their pictures, adding that they would "burn everyone" if the pictures were printed.

The journalists, whose names have not been made public for fear of retaliation, appeared to delete the photographs and were released.

But some photos were recovered - in its Sunday edition, "O Globo" published a photograph of Crivella and two young men.

"We are alarmed by recent attacks on journalists covering sensitive stories, such as organized crime. Sections of Rio de Janeiro are becoming no-go areas for reporters," says CPJ. "It is unacceptable in a democracy like Brazil."

It was in the same shantytown that journalist Tim Lopes was murdered in Vila Cruzeiro in 2002 for investigating drug traffickers.

Rio de Janeiro police say they have opened an investigation into the threats. According to IAPA, one of the assailants has been identified.

While journalists working in isolated rural areas in Brazil are most vulnerable, reporters in urban centres have recently come under attack by members of organised crime groups, says CPJ. An "O Dia" reporting team was abducted in May while investigating paramilitary presence in Batan. After having been held for at least seven hours, the crew was released on the condition that the journalists did not identify their captors, alleged paramilitaries.

Visit these links:
- CPJ:
- IAPA (Spanish only):
- "O Dia" abduction:
(30 July 2008)

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