Brazil Homicides
An activist scatters beans over a red sheet during a protest against the level of homicide in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to high crime rates, violence against Brazilian journalists has been on the rise in recent years. Reuters/Ricardo Moraes

Brazilian authorities are investigating the harrowing death of a journalist who was found decapitated this week. The murder of Evany José Metzker, a reporter who was investigating corruption and drug-trafficking networks in the country, is putting a spotlight on Brazil’s record as one of the deadliest countries in the region for journalists.

Metzker, 67, was found dead in a rural area in the state of Minas Gerais, police officials told local news outlets Tuesday. He had run a blog, Coruja do Vale, focusing on crime and corruption in a poor rural sector of Minas Garais called Valle de Jequitinhonha.

Police still haven’t confirmed if Metzker’s death was directly related to his work, but family members said it was likely. “I have no doubt that my husband was killed because of his work,” Hilma Chaves Borges Silva, Metzker’s widow, told local news outlet Estado de Minas. “He investigated everything -- dirty politics, child prostitution, cargo theft, funds, in a very dangerous region. Certainly he discovered something that hit at someone.”

The journalists’ union of Minas Gerais posted a statement on its website in response to the gruesome murder. “There is a climate of terror in the region of Minas that intimidates the work of journalists,” the group said.

According to press freedom advocacy groups, violence and intimidation against Brazilian journalists have been on the rise over the past five years. Brazil’s Human Rights Secretariat issued a report last year citing violent attacks, kidnappings, arbitrary arrests and death threats against 321 journalists between 2009 and 2014.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which ranks Brazil as the 11th-deadliest country for journalists based on killings since 1992, among the most vulnerable are journalists like Metzker -- independent reporters focusing on crime and corruption in Brazil’s rural outskirts. Last year, the group recorded three deaths of Brazilian journalists, making Brazil the seventh-deadliest country for reporters that year, four spots above Mexico.