Freedom of Expression

Press Release R10/18

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns Murder of Two Journalists in Brazil and Urges the State to Investigate Connection to Journalistic Activity

January 26, 2018

Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murders of journalist Ueliton Brizon, on January 16 in the city of Cacoal, Rondônia, and radio broadcaster Jefferson Pureza, on January 17 in the city of Edealina, Goiás. The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its concern, and urges the Brazilian authorities to act promptly and diligently to determine the motives for the murders and to identify and punish the perpetrators.  

According to the information available, on July 16, journalist Ueliton Brizon—who was also a member of the deputy town council in Cacoal at the time—was driving his motorcycle when he was reportedly shot by a gunman on another motorcycle. The journalist was accompanied by his wife, who escaped unharmed. Brizon was responsible for the web portal Jornal de Rondônia, where he published articles related to local politics and grievances. According to reports, the police have not yet identified the perpetrators of the murder and are investigating.   

On January 17, radio broadcaster Jefferson Pureza of Beira Rio FM was shot multiple times in the garage of his home in Edelina, in the State of Goiás. According to the information available, two individuals approached him on a motorcycle, shot him, and fled the scene immediately. Pureza was the host of an investigative radio program on which he covered local issues critically.

According to the information available, both journalists had received threats prior to their murders. In addition, the radio station where Jefferson Pureza worked was the target of arson in November 2017 under circumstances that remain unclear.

This Office has reiterated that the States have the obligation to take measures to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, especially when they may be in situations of risk.

The State of Brazil has a "Protection Program for Human Rights Defenders" that extends to journalists and media workers. The Office of the Special Rapporteur considers it essential for this mechanism to adapt to the needs of journalists and be widely disseminated among media workers, so it can offer effective guarantees to those who are at risk due to their journalistic activity. The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the State to strengthen the mechanisms for the protection of journalists in all regions of Brazil and to provide the necessary budget for its operation.

We recall that the obligation to conduct the investigation with due diligence and exhaust all logical lines of inquiry is especially relevant in cases of violence against journalists; an investigation that fails to consider aspects tied to the regional context, as well as the professional activity of the journalist, will be less likely to yield results. The Office of the Special Rapporteur insists on the need to create special investigation bodies and protocols.

Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states: "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."

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.