The Blanket

Tim Lopes - Poor, Black, Journalist

Anthony McIntyre

Last month in Brazil a journalist, Tim Lopes, was murdered in the city of Rio de Janeiro by drug dealers he was investigating. The eighth journalist to be murdered in the South American country since 1995 he had went to a dance party in early June with a concealed camera in one of the city’s 800 slum areas, Vila de Cruzeiro, to investigate a complaint from local people made to TV Globo for whom he worked. The complaint alleged that drug dealers were organising parties at which they recruited new customers and orchestrated paedophile activity. Vila de Cruzeiro is one of the "favelas" in the Complexe de Alemao, a shantytown on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro controlled by the drug dealers.

These 'favelas', as shantytowns are known colloquially, are said to be ruled like fiefdoms by drug lords who incessantly fight, leaving Brazil with a murder rate almost as bad as that of South Africa. The Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso said the murder of Lopes was 'an attempt to silence the press on the issue of drugs.' The local administration has put up almost $US 20,000 as reward money for information that would lead to the arrest of Elias Pereira da Silva, 35, a drug baron widely accused of being responsible for the murder of Lopes. According to two of his alleged gang members arrested shortly after the journalist had disappeared, Lopez was tortured, shot in the feet and then stabbed to death with a Samurai-style sword by Silva before his body was burned. Brazilian police claim that the prime suspect has ordered more than 60 killings as a result of his control of the drugs trade in 13 of the slum areas.

His first wife Sandra claimed that Tim Lopes was ‘inspired by three things: journalism, being poor and being black‘. In a statement, Globo said through its chief editor Carlos Henrique Schroeder, '’Tim died defending a population who lives helplessly under the terror of drug trafficking and organized crime.'’ Lopes, who had a knack for pushing at the boundaries and who brought together killers and the families of their victims on a prime-time weekend news show, had fallen foul of the drugs gangs last year by doing a TV expose of a drugs bazaar in another slum. In August, he had compiled a series of three reports for TV Globo which were screened on Brazilian Television. Called "The Drugs Fair", the reports using a hidden camera showed how young people in one of the "favela" in the Complexe de Alemao openly offered drugs to passers-by in daylight hours. Lopes was awarded the Esso Especial Prize for Television Journalism the following December - Brazil's most important journalism award. The reports led to an increased military police presence in the area and a curtailing of business for the dealers.

The determination by reactionary elements to kill journalists and writers is underlined by the Committee to Protect Journalists who in a recent report alleged that during the last decade 389 journalists were killed performing their vocation. The ease with which the perpetrators escape justice is evident when the Committee to Protect Journalists show that in only twenty cases those who ordered the murders were prosecuted - a startling 94 per cent go free.

This underlines that in Latin America Brazil is not alone in being a dangerous zone for journalists to ply their trade. The organisation, Latin America of the International Federation of Journalists has drawn attention to ongoing harassment of journalists in Paraguay, Colombia and Venezuela. The latter perhaps more than the rest is all the more disappointing given that the regime of Hugo Chavez was expected to increase rather than diminish progress.

In the struggle to throw light on the dark regions where those with the power to ruin the lives of others and keep people in permanent poverty are intent on a permanent ‘‘lights out’’ regime of fear, writers and journalists will inevitably lose their lives. Tim Lopes knew the risks and took them. People like him are the true literary heroes in a world where many masquerading as opinion writers craft little other than pulp fiction.





Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives





The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Index: Current Articles

14 July 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Case for Class Politics

Billy Mitchell


Tim Lopes - Poor, Black, Journalist

Anthony McIntyre


Pretty Vacant



11 July 2002


In Memory of a Storm Trooper

Billy Mitchell


States of Failure

Ciarán Irvine


Colombian 3 - What Chance of Justice
Sean Smyth

So Many Monuments...

Brian Mór

Lord Alex on the job
Brian Mór




The Blanket



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices

To contact the Blanket project with a comment, to contribute an article, or to make a donation, write to: