Miami (December 31, 2009)–The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today renewed its plea to the government of the Brazilian state of Bahia to reopen investigation into the 1998 murder of journalist Manoel Leal de Oliveira and accelerate payment of reparations to his family under terms of an agreement reached between the IAPA and the Brazilian federal government at the request of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
The IAPA urged Bahia state officials to fast-track the legal process so the journalist’s family could receive the financial aid as stipulated in the 2006 amicable agreement between the organization and the Brazilian government. The plea was contained in a letter sent today by IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre, managing editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, and the chairman of the IAPA’s Impunity Committee, Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, president of the Mexico City, Mexico, newspaper El Universal, to Governor Jaques Wagner of Bahia state, where Leal de Oliveira lived.
Since 2006 the IAPA has acknowledged both the federal and Bahia state government’s political goodwill in resolving this case but today is reacting to the fact that this month legislative bill (No. 18291) authorizing payment of compensation to Leal de Oliveira’s widow and children was replaced by a bill (No. 18468) that changes the date of compliance, but contains no deadline for approval.
As part of the amicable agreement, an official ceremony was held with the presence of Leal de Oliveira's family on September 21st, in Salvador, capital of the northeastern Brazilian state, where the government acknowledged responsibility for the journalist’s death and that of nine others in the region.
Reparations that the Bahia state government has agreed to pay are awaiting approval by the legislature of a bill of authorization. The IAPA urged speed while also insisting that priority be given to reopening the investigation “so that the masterminds behind the crime are identified” – one of the six recommendations sent by the IACHR to the Brazilian government.
On May 19, 2000 the IAPA submitted the results of its own investigation into the murder to the IACHR, requesting its intervention due to the inexplicable delay in justice being served. Six years later the IACHR offered the Brazilian government and the IAPA a proposal for an amicable solution in the case of Leal de Oliveira, founding publisher of the Itabuna, Bahia, newspaper A Região, who had reported on irregularities by the local municipal administration in his paper.
Since 1997 and as part of its Impunity Project, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the IAPA has submitted to the IACHR a total of 24 unpunished murders of journalists in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Paraguay. Under IACHR mediation progress has been achieved in a number of cases involving the governments of Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications in the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to the Web site www.impunidad.com or www.sipiapa.org