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João Miranda do Carmo

The story ends like a scene from a thriller. In the late evening of 24 July 2016 João Miranda do Carmo heard a man calling his name in front of his house in the Brazilian town of Santo Antônio do Descoberto. He went out to take a look, and in the twilight he saw a red Fiat parked on the road. Joao Miranda do Carmo approached the vehicle and then the shots rang out. He was hit seven times in the chest and died immediately. Witnesses saw and heard how at least two men sped from the scene in the car.

Do Carmo’s friends are convinced it was a targeted attack on the 54-year-old journalist, but it remains unclear who was behind it. It could have been men involved in the drug trade, or the act may have been politically motivated. After all, Joao Miranda do Carmo was a well-known and controversial figure in the small town, which lies around 30 kilometres west of the metropolis of Brasilia. He worked for a news portal with the somewhat foreboding name “SAD Sem Censura” – meaning Santo Antônio do Descoberto (SAD for short) uncensored.

The murder in itself is further proof that journalists at risk are not only those known throughout the country and working for large media organisations that fight corruption in the government and criminal structures. Indeed, those journalists are protected to a certain degree by their prominence, but the many courageous local reporters who pursue the political and criminal mafia all over Brazil have no such protection. Joao Miranda do Carmo was one such reporter. “He demanded answers from politicians, the police and officials”, Claudio Curado of the federal state’s professional association of journalists told the international Committee to Protect Journalists.

“We believe the murder has a political background. He questioned the actions of local politicians.”

Yet this wasn’t even about the major themes that have been rattling Brazil for years and that are all too familiar: corruption allegations against the ousted President and her successor, the scandals surrounding the state-owned company Petrobas or the construction for the Olympics. On his website do Carmo was in fact most recently investigating the question of why some streets in the town of 50,000 are paved and others are not, as well as a new local waste tax and complaints from municipal workers who weren’t receiving their wages on time.

These are topics that are not particularly different to those even European or German local journalists examine. It is their job; they exercise open, democratic control in the interests of citizens of their communities. Yet in our countries they have little more to fear than perhaps an unfriendly phone call every now and again or complaints from an affected dignitary or advertising customers of the publishing house. João Miranda do Carmo, on the other hand, was hugely under threat because of his work. In 2014 his car was set alight by unknown perpetrators. In the following year he first reported receiving death threats to the police.

His opponents didn’t care what topics he was investigating, they just disliked the conduct he showed in doing it.

The journalist was a member of the communist party and made no secret of the fact.

Nevertheless, the police did take action. Three days after the murder they arrested a man. Witnesses had identified the 40-year-old as the driver of the Fiat in which the attackers fled. He worked at a security service that guards the town’s public buildings, but was also believed to have had contact with drug dealers, whose exploits do Carmo had reported on. Yet weeks later the police maintained they were still unable to establish a motive or who was behind the crime. So this story doesn’t end like a thriller after all, when the murderer is usually arrested. The end remains open, and the family, friends and readers of Joao Miranda do Carmo doubt whether they will ever know who killed this brave local journalist and whether the perpetrators will ever be brought to justice.

 

written by Holger Schmale; DuMont-Hauptstadtredaktion

  • Credit: www.opopular.com.br – Credits Reproduction from facebook

    João Miranda Do Carmo

    The 54-year old Brazlian was owner of a website for local news called “SAD Sem Censura” – “Santo Antônio do Descoberto Uncensured”. The website deals with topics such as corruption and crime in this small town whereby do Carmo received several death threats before he got killed. However, according to the local Police, there was no connection between João Miranda Do Carmo’s murder and his activity as a journalist. The website is offline by now.