Freedom of Expression

Press Release 63/02


            The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Dr. Eduardo A. Bertoni, condemns the murder of Brazilian journalist Domingos Sávio Brandão de Lima Júnior.  Likewise, he urges Brazilian authorities to launch an investigation into the act and to ensure that its perpetrators are punished.  Savio Brandão was the owner of, and a columnist for, the daily newspaper Folha do Estado of the city of Cuiaba, Mato Grosso.  On September 30, he was hit by several bullets in the newspaper’s offices and was killed. According to information received, his murder was related to the newspaper’s numerous investigations into the existence of gangs involved in undercover gambling and drug trafficking.  

            The Special Rapporteur recalls that the murder of journalists is the most brutal means of restricting freedom of expression. As stated in Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, “The murder [of] and or threats to social communicators . . . violate the fundamental rights of individuals.” The American Convention on Human Rights, to which Brazil is a party, establishes that states have the duty to prevent, investigate, and sanction any violation of the human rights recognized in the Convention.  In the case of journalists, the IACHR has maintained that the failure to thoroughly investigate the murder of a journalist and to punish those who carried out or planned the crime is especially serious because of its impact on society. When treated with impunity, these crimes intimidate not only other journalists but also citizens at large since they make them fearful about reporting attacks, abuses, and other illicit acts.  In this regard, it should be noted that the murder, kidnapping, or intimidation of those who work for the media, or threats against them, pursue two specific goals.  On the one hand, they seek to annihilate journalists who are investigating abuses or irregularities in order to curtail their investigations and, on the other, they endeavor to intimidate investigators in general. 

            Dr. Eduardo Bertoni urges the Brazilian state to investigate this murder immediately, noting the commitment made by the Heads of State and Government at the Third Summit of the Americas, whereby the governments ensured “that journalists and opinion leaders are free to investigate and publish without fear of reprisals . . . .”  

Eduardo A. Bertoni
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
Washington, D.C., October 2, 2002