Reporters Without Borders today voiced anger at the murder of journalist Vladimir Antuna García, found dead last evening after he was abducted on his way to work, pointing the finger of blame at state prosecutors who knew he was getting death threats but failed to protect him.
The journalist, who worked as a security specialist on the daily El Tiempo de Durango, was found to have died of “asphyxia from strangulation” but his body also bore bullet wounds to the head and abdomen, official sources said. A message was found near the corpse but its contents have not yet been revealed.
“We send our condolences to the family of Vladimir Antuna García. We feel rage over this murder which could have been prevented”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“Durango state prosecutor’s office knew about death threats Vladimir Antuna received but did nothing to protect him. The murder a few months ago of Eliseo Barrón, probably by the same people, should have alerted the authorities. It is unacceptable. Durango state, a bastion of organised crime where there is complete impunity, has become a torment for those defending a free press and openness in news and information,” it said.
“Once again, we call on the federal authorities to set up protection programmes to put an end to this grisly toll”.
Antuna was the target of a murder attempt on 28 April this year when shots were fired at his home. Moreover, the Centre for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET) said he had received regular anonymous threats about his news reports both on his mobile phone and at the newspaper office.
A few days after the brutal murder of Eliseo Barrón, on 26 May 2009, Antuna said that he had been receiving threats for several months from suspected members of Zetas, a criminal gang linked to the Gulf Cartel. The CEPET added that Antuna had exchanged information with Eliseo Barrón about police corruption and organised crime shortly before his death. Barrón’s killers, members of Zetas who were arrested on 6 June, have admitted to the murder, which they said was intended to force the local press into self-censorship.
This latest murder brings to 56 the number of journalists killed because of their work since the start of 2000. Mexico is ranked 137th out of 175 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2009 world press freedom index.
(Photo: Antuna's car)