A Brazilian journalist who won the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom award received death threats after publishing an investigation that documented alleged police corruption.
Anonymous callers to the Gazeta do Povo newspaper and a local television station said police officers were planning to kill reporter Mauri Konig at his home in Curitiba, in southeastern Brazil, according to Leonir Batisti, who oversees investigations into police crime at the public prosecutor’s office. Officials are investigating the alleged threats, Batisti said in a phone interview yesterday.
Konig and other journalists at the newspaper started publishing in May a series of stories and photographs that showed several police officers using their official vehicles allegedly for personal purposes, including visiting brothels and going to the beach. Gazeta do Povo published a story yesterday saying that those same officers are being promoted in alleged violation of police statutes.
“The Brazilian authorities must respond firmly,” Carlos Lauria, Americas program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a telephone interview. “The subjects Mauri reports on are of great public interest. This isn’t the first death threat that he has received.”
Konig went into hiding this week after receiving the threats, the CPJ said in a statement.
The alleged personal use of police vehicles is being investigated and no officers have been promoted, according to a press official at the Parana civil police, who asked not to be identified because he’s not authorized to speak publicly.
Four journalists have been killed because of their work this year in Brazil, the most in more than a decade, according to the New York-based CPJ. That places it fourth among the deadliest countries for journalists this year, after Syria, Somalia and Pakistan.
Two-thirds of the 24 reporters murdered in Brazil since 1992 covered corruption, according to the CPJ. Brazil ranks 69th on Transparency International’s list of the most corrupt countries.
Impunity is one of the biggest obstacles to press freedom in Brazil as journalists increasingly report on corruption, organized crime and human rights, Konig said in a blog post published yesterday on CPJ’s website.
“Journalists are killed in reprisal for this type of reporting,” said Konig. “The media professionals who are most exposed are those who take up political causes or are linked to local authorities. Journalists who work in smaller cities, especially near the border areas, are more vulnerable.”
Konig’s previous reporting helped break up a sex-trafficking ring in Brazil, according to the citation for his press freedom award. In 2000, he was beaten with chains and left for dead near the Brazilian border with Paraguay for reporting on child kidnappings, the citation said.
Last month, Brazilian journalist Eduardo Carvalho was shot to death in front of his home in the capital of the central-western state of Mato Grosso do Sul, the G1 news service reported. Carvalho owned a website that reported on local corruption, according to the CPJ.