The founder of a local news blog on Facebook called A Voz Araruamense (Voice of Araruama), Leonardo Pinheiro was interviewing local residents on a street in the town’s Bananeiras district on the afternoon of 13 May when several shots were fired at him from a car that had just approached. When the police arrived a few minutes later, all they could do was confirm his death.
In his blog and in another local news page on Facebook called Fala Araruama to which he contributed, Pinheiro was openly critical of the municipal government and local officials, questioning the benefits of the Covid-19 lockdown and campaigning for local businesses to be allowed to reopen. He was very involved in local politics and had just announced that he planned to run for the Patriota party in the 2020 municipal elections in Araruama.
The local police have not as yet said anything about the possible motives for Pinheiro’s murder.
“Araruama’s authorities must investigate this blogger’s murder thoroughly and not neglect the possibility that it was linked to his journalism,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “The Covid-19 crisis and its political impact mean that the protection and safety of news providers are more essential than ever. Both the local and federal authorities must do everything possible to guarantee them.”
Rio de Janeiro state is extremely dangerous for journalists. In the coastal city of Maricá, two journalists were murdered in similar circumstances in the space of a month in 2019 for motives that are still unclear.
Brazil is ranked 107th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.