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One journalist wounded, fugitive murderer of TV Globo reporter Tim Lopes arrested in Rio military operation

(RSF/IFEX) - 30 November 2010 - A Reuters photographer sustained a gunshot wound to the shoulder and one of the fugitive murderers of TV Globo reporter Tim Lopes was arrested during a six-day operation by soldiers and elite police units against drug traffickers in the Morro de Alemão complex of favelas in northern Rio de Janeiro that ended on 26 November.

The operation against one of the city's biggest drug trafficking strongholds was aimed at dislodging the headquarters resulting from an alliance between two feared gangs, the "Red Commando" and the "Friends of Friends." Around 20 presumed traffickers were reportedly killed in the course of violent clashes.

Among those arrested was Eliseu Felício de Souza, also known as "O Zeu," a former member of the "Crazy Elias" gang who was sentenced to 23 years and six months in prison for his role in the 2002 murder of Lopes. Souza escaped while on a semi-release programme in 2007 and has been dealing in drugs openly in Morro de Alemão ever since.

Paulo Whitaker, a Brazilian photographer working for the British news agency Reuters, was hit in the shoulder by a stray bullet while covering the operation, but his injury was not life-threatening, the agency said.

The operation was the result of a decision by the city and federal authorities to launch an all-out offensive against crime in the favelas ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which Brazil is hosting, and the 2016 Summer Olympics, which are to be held in Rio.

As regards the Lopes case, the ease with which "O Zeu" escaped and the fact that it took three years and a military operation to recapture him should convince the judicial authorities that they need to review sentence implementation procedures for certain prisoners.

Ranked 58th out of 178 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Brazil nonetheless continues to be a dangerous country for journalists. Three were killed in the second half of October, one of them in connection with his work.

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