Noé Zavaleta has had the tough job of replacing Regina Martínez as Proceso’s Veracruz correspondent. Martínez was brutally murdered in her home in Xalapa, the state’s capital, in 2012.
Zavaleta says that since early july he has been getting threats on social networks and has been the victim of online harassment and intimidation attempts in connection with his book, El Infierno de Javier Duarte (“Javier Duarte’s Hell”), about the widespread corruption and violence during Duarte’s six years as governor.
“This campaign of harassment and these threats against Noé Zavaleta are very disturbing and must stop at once,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America desk.
Zavaleta reported the threats to the federal authorities but is still awaiting a satisfactory response.
One of the sources of the threats is José Abella, the editor of the daily El Buen Tono and a Duarte supporter, who is named in the book as a privileged recipient of Veracruz state advertising. Abella has publicly threatened Zavaleta, including on his Facebook page.
A photo of Zavaleta with a gun in a police station, taken while he was on a reporting assignment, has been circulating on social networks since last week. It is accompanied by comments linking him to local gangs, especially the “Los Zetas” cartel. Zavaleta told RSF he was very concerned about the attempts to associate him with these criminal groups.
This kind of disinformation campaign is far from unprecedented in Veracruz, one of the most dangerous states in Mexico for journalists. After the journalist Anabel Flores was kidnapped and murdered in February, Abella said he had fired her from his newspaper because of her supposed links with organized crime.
According to the Veracruz Commission for the Attention and Protection of Journalists, there were 176 cases of violence, intimidation, threats, aggression, cyber-attacks, blackmail, murder and enforced disappearance in which journalists were the victims from 2013 to June 2016.
Veracruz newspaper reporter Pedro Tamayo became the ninth journalist to be murdered in Mexico since the start of the year on 20 July.
Mexico is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.