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Brazilian Police Search for Missing Investigative Reporter

The case of a missing Brazilian journalist is arousing concern among domestic and international press watchdog organizations. The reporter, a respected television journalist, disappeared Sunday while investigating drug trafficking activities in a Rio de Janeiro slum.

Brazilian police continue to investigate the disappearance of 50-year-old Tim Lopes a reporter with the Globo television network. Mr. Lopes disappeared Sunday while working undercover investigating drug trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children in a Rio de Janeiro slum.

Police are looking into accounts by slum residents that he was seized by members of a drug gang, and then murdered on orders of a drug lord.

Mr. Lopes' disappearance has aroused concern among local and international press organizations. The Brazilian Press Association and the National Association of Newspapers have called for a thorough investigation, while also protesting the state of insecurity in Rio caused by drug-related violence.

In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists has expressed its concern. Latin American researcher, Marylene Smeets, emphasizes the committee is monitoring the case closely.

"We're extremely concerned about the safety of Tim Lopes, and we very much hope that Brazilian authorities will do everything in their power to find out where Tim Lopes is, and we very much hope for a good outcome of this case. It is very worrisome indeed, and we are on red alert about it," she said.

Until now, Ms Smeets notes, journalists working in large Brazilian cities were safe. "Most violent attacks, whether they be abductions or worse are carried out in the provinces and in general we've always had the impression that journalists working in bigger cities in Brazil enjoyed conditions like in other industrialized democracies and so were safe from violence in reprisal for their work," she said. "This case seems to indicate that that is not true for all beats in big cities."

The French organization Reporters Without Borders also has expressed its concern and called on Brazilian authorities to investigate the case.

Mr. Lopes was a veteran investigative journalist who often went undercover. He once disguised himself as a beggar and spent two days living with street children. Another time he pretended to be a cocaine addict, and spent two months in a drug rehabilitation clinic. He won awards and widespread recognition for his reporting.