Reporters Without Borders is disturbed to learn that Noel López Olguín, a journalist based in the eastern state of Veracruz, has been missing for the past two and a half weeks. López works for the local weeklies Horizonte and Noticias de Acayucan and the daily La Verdad.
Gerardo Perdomo, the head of the Veracruz State Commission for the Defence of Journalists, told the press freedom organization that no one has heard from López since 8 March, when he set off for Soteapan, a town in the south of the state, to “sort out a problem” after getting a phone call.
His car was found on the road to Soteapan the next day but it contained no clues as to his whereabouts.
Various sources said he was probably kidnapped by an armed group. The fact that his family and colleagues refuse to talk about his disappearance, apparently for fear of reprisals, tends to confirm this hypothesis. Time is of the essence, and Reporters Without Borders urges the Veracruz authorities to assign all possible resources to the search for López.
Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Veracruz is a major transit point in the trafficking of drugs to the United States. The feared paramilitary group Los Zetas is reportedly very active in the area around Jáltipan, the town where López lives and works, which is located near Veracruz’s southern border with Oaxaca state. Abductions and murders are frequent there.
This area of Veracruz would be as good a place as any to start implementing the “protection mechanisms” for journalists promised by the federal government, which were agreed on at meeting organized by the interior ministry on 3 November 2010.
La Verdad reported on 25 February that two of its journalists – Fabián Antonio Santiago Hernández and his father, Margarito Santiago Pérez – had been kidnapped. They were fortunately released five hours later.
Veracruz already has two missing journalists. They are Evaristo Ortega Zárate, the editor of the Colipa-based weekly Espacio, missing since 19 April 2010, and Jesús Mejía Lechuga, an employer of radio MS-Noticias in Martínez de la Torre, missing since 10 July 2003.
Mexico is an extremely dangerous country for the media, with a total of 13 journalists (including López) disappeared since 2003, and a total of 69 killed since 2000. In the state of Veracruz itself, a total of seven journalists were killed between 2002 and 2009.
The death toll from the offensive against drug trafficking that the federal government launched in December 2006 currently stands at about 35,000. Reporters Without Borders continues to supports the “No more blood - No + sangre” campaign launched by 10 leading cartoonists who are going to produce special cartoons for the campaign throughout the year.