Freedom of Expression

Press Release R108/10






Washington D.C., November 3, 2010. – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murders of the director and president of the newspaper Entre-Ríos, José Pontes de Souza, which occurred on October 30 in Paraíba do Sul, and of radio reporter Francisco Gomes de Medeiros, who died on October 18 in the city of Caicó. The Office of the Special Rapporteur asks the authorities to conduct prompt and diligent investigations to establish the motive of the crimes, and to identify and appropriately punish the perpetrators.

According to the information received, José Pontes de Souza was murdered on Saturday, October 30 in the main square of Paraíba do Sul by an unknown individual who shot him in the head. The journalist was the director and owner of the regional newspaper Entre-Ríos of the town of Tres Ríos, in the province of Río de Janeiro.

In the case of Francisco Gomes, according to reports received by the Rapporteur’s Office, a subject shot him several times in front of his house. The journalist was still alive when he was taken to a local hospital, where he later died. The day after the crime, the police arrested a person who allegedly admitted having committed the murder in retaliation for articles published by Gomes that were used by a court to sentence him to prison in 2007.

This Office of the Special Rapporteur was informed that Gomes worked as the news director of the Radio Caicó radio station, contributed to the Tribuna do Norte newspaper, and kept a personal blog on which he published his own criminal exposés and investigations. Gomes had recently denounced the alleged buying of votes in exchange for drugs by politicians in the community of Caicó, during the first round of the last general elections in Brazil. Gomes had received death threats as a result of this publication.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the Brazilian authorities to ensure that these crimes do not go unpunished, by firmly pursuing the investigations, prosecution, and appropriate punishment of the perpetrators, as well as the just compensation of the victims’ relatives.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds the Brazilian State that, according to the ninth principle of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression: "The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."