Journalist Mário Randolfo Marques Lopes, the 50-year-old editor of the Vassouras na Net news website, and his partner, Maria Aparecida Guimarães, were shot dead in the early hours of yesterday in Barra do Piraí, in Rio de Janeiro state.
The exact circumstance of the double murder are not clear, but according to local media reports, they were abducted from Marques Lopes’ home by three individuals and were taken to another part of the city where they were shot. The police do not as yet have any precise information about the killers.
While the motive has yet to be established, Marques Lopes had made many enemies by reporting cases of alleged corruption, some involving local businessmen and politicians, and had been sued for defamation by a police inspector and a judge.
He miraculously survived a murder attempt on 6 July 2011, when a masked gunman entered his previous home in the nearby municipality of Vassouras and shot him five times in the head. After receiving police protection while recovering in hospital, he decided to move to Barra do Piraí.
“Without jumping to conclusions, we hope that the police will explore all the possible links with this previous history,” Reporters Without Borders, voicing its condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the two victims.
“Several journalists were killed last year in Brazil. Coverage of sensitive political issues, especially at the local level, continues to expose journalists to danger. Whatever the motive in this case, we hope its rapid solution will mark a turning-point in the fight against impunity.”
The high level of violence affecting journalists and bloggers in 2011 is widely regarded as being responsible for the fact that Brazil fell 41 places in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, which was published on 25 January.