Brazil - Call for federal commission of enquiry after paramilitaries kidnap and torture three O Dia employees

    MONTREAL, June 2 /CNW Telbec/ -

    HE Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
    President of Brazil
    Mr. Tarso Genro
    Minister of Justice
    Mr. Sérgio Cabral
    Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro

    Dear President Da Silva, Dear Minister and Dear Governor,

    You will be aware of the news of the abduction and barbaric mistreatment
of three employees of the Rio de Janeiro-based daily O Dia - a reporter, a
photographer and a driver - at the hands of a militia operating in a Rio de
Janeiro favela on 14 May.
    Reporters Without Borders is stunned to learn this could have been
carried out by members of the security forces who are supposed to combat crime
and drug trafficking in sensitive neighbourhoods. The behaviour of these
militias, formed by policemen, prison officers, firemen and security guards,
is no better than the behaviour of the criminals they are meant to combat.
    This extremely serious case follows other recent physical attacks on the
media involving members of the police, especially in the states of Rio de
Janeiro and Sao Paulo. In our view, these cases of abuse of authority require
the appointment of a federal commission to investigate and suppress these
militias in coordination with the state authorities.
    The two O Dia journalists and their driver moved into the Batan favela in
Realengo, a western suburb of Rio de Janeiro, at the beginning of May into
order to research a story on these militias. According to O Dia, around
10 gunmen kidnapped the photographer and driver from a café on 14 May and
initially tried to get residents to lynch them.
    Their abductors then bundled them into a red Polo car with the
registration number KPB 4592 and drove off with them. At around 9 p.m. the
same day, they kidnapped the reporter from her home in the favela and drove
off with her in the same Polo car. One of the militiamen told her: "You work
for O Dia and you have been taken prisoner for 'ideological lies'."
    The journalists were stripped for their equipment and material and they
and their driver were subjected to barbaric mistreatment for seven hours in a
secret prison. They were beaten, plastic bags were put over their heads, they
were given electric shocks, they were subjected to Russian roulette and they
were threatened with being tortured to death. Finally, at around 4 a.m., they
were released. They are currently in a safe place where they are receiving
medical and psychological treatment. The newspaper did not make the case
public until 31 May, in order to facilitate the investigation being carried
out by the Rio de Janeiro state public security authorities. The Rio de
Janeiro city journalists' union has called it "one of the most serious attacks
on press freedom since the end of the military dictatorship."
    The Rio de Janeiro media describe these militias as a relatively new
phenomenon. According to O Dia, militias of this kind are currently operating
in a total of 78 localities and have been responsible for about 200 murders in
the past three years. Their presence is a direct threat to the state
guarantees enshrined in the 1988 federal constitution, and it is for this
reason that Reporters Without Borders calls for far-reaching measures to be
adopted against them.

    We thank you in advance for giving this letter your careful attention.


    Robert Ménard

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)

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