Aged 36, Figueira was a leading opponent of Serra Do Mel mayor Josivan Bibiano de Azevedo of the centre-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) and had just posted an investigative report on Serra Do Mel’s municipal finances, accompanied by an opinion poll.

He was shot six times by three unidentified men on a motorcycle as he was leaving his place of work. The head of the PT in Rio Grande do Norte, Eraldo Paiva, told the Diário de Natal newspaper that Figueira had received threats. Pavia said a commission had been created to follow the case.

“The marked political tensions in Serra do Mel suggest that politics may have been the motive for Figueira’s murder,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But keeping a blog and discussing the sensitive subject of corruption are also risky in Brazil, as we already saw in the attempted murder of the blogger Ricardo Gama in Rio de Janeiro in March (http://en.rsf.org/brazil-shooting-attack-on-outspoken-rio-24-03-2011,39865.html).

“In the Figueira case, the entire local political class can play a key role by constantly insisting on the need to shed every possible light on this murder for the sake of the defence of civil liberties and the democratic debate.”

Reporters Without Borders also notes that this part of Brazil has a significant organized crime presence and that the way Figueira was murdered had the hallmarks of a contract killing.

Two journalists have already been killed in Brazil this year. One was Luciano Leitão Pedrosa, a reporter for Radio Metropolitana FM and programme producer on local TV Vitória, who was gunned down in the northeastern state of Pernambuco on 9 April (http://en.rsf.org/brazil-little-progress-in-investigation-22-04-2011,40088.html).

The other was Valério Nascimento, the owner and editor of the local newspaper Panorama Geral, who was gunned down in Rio de Janeiro state on 3 May (http://en.rsf.org/brazil-another-journalist-gunned-down-in-04-05-2011,40228.html). In neither case has the investigation made much progress although, in several older cases involving journalists there has some progress in combating impunity.