The judicial authorities in the northern state of Coahuila have said Rafael Ortiz Martínez of the local daily Zócalo, who went missing in the city of Monclova on 8 July, was probably kidnapped by drug traffickers.
“If this is true, we would be extremely concerned about Ortiz's fate,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Drug trafficking has become a virtually untouchable subject for Mexican journalists, who have to choose between censoring themselves or putting their lives in danger. Given the gravity of this case, we reiterate our call for an investigation at the federal level.”
Ortiz, who also hosts a local radio show, had written at least five reports about drug trafficking in Monclova and the surrounding region. Coahuila governor Humberto Moreira Valdés says drug traffickers often use abduction as a way to intimidate the media.
The Ortiz case resembles that of Alfredo Jiménez Mota of the local daily El Imparcial who went missing on 2 April 2005 in the northwestern state of Sonora after investigating drug trafficking.
11.07.06 - Journalist missing in Coahuila state
Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about the disappearance of Rafael Ortiz Martínez, a radio and newspaper journalist based in Monclova, in the northern state of Coahuila, who has not been seen since 8 July.
“We urge the Coahuila state authorities to do everything possible to find Ortiz quickly and to alert the new prosecutor's office that specialises in attacks on the press,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The investigators should consider the possibility that Ortiz's disappearance is related to his work as a journalist,” the organisation added, noting that two other journalists are missing in Mexico - Jesús Mejía Lechuga since 10 July 2003 and Alfredo Jiménez Mota since 2 April 2005.
Aged 32, Ortiz is a reporter for the Monclova edition of the daily newspaper Zócalo. He also presents a one-hour news programme called Radio Zócalo every morning on radio XHCCG 104.1 FM. The editor of Zócalo, Sergio Cisneros, issued a statement saying Ortiz had not been seen since he left the newspaper on finishing his work at around 1:30 or 1:45 a.m. on 8 July. Cisneros said he was very surprised by Ortiz's disappearance and did not know why it had happened.
Ortiz wrote two sensitive articles last week, one about prostitution in downtown Monclova and the other about the spread of a hepatitis C at a centre for treatment and social reintegration.
Cisneros said the newspaper alerted the local authorities after noticing Ortiz's prolonged and inexplicable absence. Ortiz's father, Rafael Ortiz del Toro, reported his disappearance yesterday to the local state prosecutor's office.