Abduction of three men highlights climate of terror for local reporters in Mexico
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Mexican authorities to do everything possible to identify those responsible for abducting three men in one of the country’s most dangerous regions in late December in connection with content posted on a local news site, and to protect the two who were released on 11 January
Jesús Pintor Alegre, a reporter and founder of the Yo Soy Tu Imagen website, Alan García, a political analyst and administrator of the Escenario Calentano local news site, and a third man, Fernando Moreno, were abducted on 25 and 27 December in Ciudad Altamirano and Arcelia, two towns in southwestern Guerrero state’s Tierra Caliente region, where the Familia Michoacana criminal cartel has a major presence.
Pintor and Moreno were released on 11 January but García is still missing. Contacted by RSF after his release, PIntor said he was subjected to electric shocks and psychological torture while held. He said the presumed motive for their abduction was a “misunderstanding” about posts on the Escenario Calentano site.
In a video posted online after their release, he and Moreno insisted they had no connection with the Escenario Calentano posts. Escenario Calentano has repeatedly denounced alleged links between local officials and the Familia Michoacana cartel. The last post before García’s abduction referred explicitly to “El Fresa,” one of the cartel’s main leaders.
This episode is typical of the climate of terror for Mexican journalists who work in the most remote places, in small and medium-sized towns where criminal groups are ubiquitous. These are zones of silence, where a misunderstanding about articles published in local online news outlets can result in all sorts of atrocities. The authorities must move quickly to locate Alan García, who is still missing, to identify those responsible, and to ensure that Jesús Pintor and Fernando Moreno are protected
A video posted on social media on 7 January showed Moreno and García in handcuffs and chains being forced to deliver a message in which they said they were “paying the consequences of the publications that were made against various people in the Tierra Caliente region, in the states of Mexico, Michoacán and Guerrero.” The purpose of the video was clearly to inspire terror and discourage the publication of any information about the actions of criminal groups in the region.
Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, with at least 11 murdered in connection with their work in 2022 alone, according to RSF’s tally. Another 27 journalists are currently registered as missing.
On 2 November 2022, RSF and its Mexican partner organisation, Propuesta Cívica, filed two complaints against Mexico with the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva regarding the cases of Mauricio Estrada Zamora and Ramón Ángeles Zalpa, two journalists who disappeared in the state of Michoacán in 2008 and 2010 respectively.