Freedom of Expression

Press Release 82/03


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) of the OAS, Eduardo A. Bertoni, condemns the assassination of the journalist Nicanor Linhares Batista and urges the Brazilian authorities to continue investigating the crime and punish its perpetrators. 

According to the information received, Nicanor Linhares Batista was the owner and manager of the Radio Vale do Jaguaribe in the city of Limoeiro do Norte, state of Ceará. Nicanor Linhares Batista was shot on Monday, June 30 in his studio, while he was recording his daily program "Encontro Político" (Political Encounter).  

At this time, the motives for the assassination are unknown; nevertheless, according to the information received, Nicanor Linhares Batista was known as a controversial journalist who strongly challenged the local public administration, and had previously been harassed for this reason. 

The Special Rapporteur recalls that the assassination of a social communicator is the most brutal way of restricting the freedom of expression in the Americas.  As established by Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, "the murder… of and or threats to social communicators violate the fundamental rights of individuals." In accordance with the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Brazil is a party, States have the duty to completely and effectively investigate the assassination of journalists and to punish all perpetrators. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has sustained that the lack of a complete and effective investigation of the murder of a journalist and the punishment of the material and intellectual perpetrators of the crime is especially grave in terms of the impact it has on society. Impunity for these crimes not only has a chilling effect on other journalists, but also on any citizen, because it creates a fear of denouncing any kind of illicit or abusive behavior. 

The negative effect of the assassination of a journalist may only be avoided through decisive State action in punishing those responsible for threatening and murdering journalists. In this way, States can send a strong and direct message to society that there will not be tolerance for those who commit violations of the freedom of expression. 

For these reasons, the Special Rapporteur urges the Brazilian State to continue with the investigation of this case and take all measures necessary to guarantee that this crime does not go unpunished. Likewise, the Special Rapporteur urges the authorities to guarantee that journalists can exercise their important function of informing the Brazilian citizenry without suffering arbitrary consequences or intimidating actions. 

July 3, 2003
Washington D.C.