Fears have been raised for the safety of journalist María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe of the local daily El Diario de Zamora, in Michoacán state, south-western Mexico, who went missing a week ago.
The 32-year-old, who has been covering crime stories for four years, left her home in Zamora on 11 November promising her two young daughters she would not be long, shortly after receiving a mystery phone call. She has not been seen since.
“This is the third case of a journalist disappearing in one of the most dangerous regions of the world, where a federal offensive against drug trafficking was launched in December 2006,” Reporters Without Borders said. Nine journalists have gone missing without trace in Mexico since 2000.
“As a crime specialist, Aguilar Cansimbe ran major risks. We hope that this investigation can progress rapidly and will not stall as did those into the disappearances in the same state of journalists José Antonio García Apac, on 20 November 2006, and Mauricio Estrada Zamora, on 12 February 2008 (see report Behind the scenes of impunity of 28 September 2009).
“We are also waiting to see what action the Michoacán judicial authorities and the new federal justice minister, Arturo Chávez Chávez, plan on taking to resolve these cases,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
The journalist’s family took the case to the sub-delegation of the state prosecutor’s office. Regional justice officials told her anxious colleagues on 17 November that they had referred the case up to the federal level.
Aguilar, who is married to a former public security director in the municipality of Jacona, had recently published an article about a case of abuse of authority implicating the Zamora police chief, Lieutenant Jorge Arturo Cambroni Torres, who was dismissed shortly afterwards. Reporters Without Borders said it hoped that this lead would be explored as a first priority.
The organisation also promised to help provide legal assistance for the families of journalists who have gone missing in Michoacán state.
The journalist’s disappearance coincides with the first anniversary of the murder of Armando Rodríguez Carreón, of the daily El Diario, killed in Ciudad Juárez in northern Mexico on 13 November 2008.
A total of 56 journalists have been killed and nine have gone missing in Mexico since 2000. It is the continent’s most dangerous country for journalists and was ranked 137th out of 175 countries in Reporters Without Borders 2009 world press freedom index.
(Photo: Cambio newspaper)