The body of Noel López Olguín, a local journalist based in the eastern state of Veracruz who had been missing since 8 March, was found near Jáltipan, on 1 June, four days after Alejandro Castro Chirinos, also known as “El Dragón,” was captured in the nearby city of Coatzacoalcos and confessed to participating in his murder.
Police said Castro, who was caught in possession of López’s camera, told them where his body was buried.
The motive for López’s murder is not yet known but it was probably linked to his work as a journalist. A social activist who covered community issues including corruption and security, he had appealed to the public to report abuses by the authorities and organized crime.
Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Veracruz is a major transit point for drugs being trafficked to the United States. The feared paramilitary group Los Zetas is said to be particularly active in the area around Jáltipan, the town where López lived and worked, which lies near Veracruz’s southern border with Oaxaca state.
Reporters Without Borders hopes that the police will quickly establish the murder motive and urges the federal authorities 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.
Reporters Without Borders again included the Sinaloa, Gulf and Juárez cartels in the updated list of “Predators of Press Freedom” that it released on 3 May. In February, it released a major report on the threat to the media from organized crime.
Mexico is one of the western hemisphere’s most dangerous countries for the media, with a total of 73 journalists killed and 12 missing since 2000. In the state of Veracruz itself, a total of eight journalists have been killed since 2002.
A grenade was meanwhile thrown at the headquarters of the Vanguardia newspaper in Saltillo, in the northern state of Coahuila, on 30 May. No one was injured but the building and two cars were badly damaged. The newspaper has reportedly been harassed and threatened by criminal groups that do not want their activities covered.
Three journalists – Pablo Hernández and Ismael Villagómez of the daily El Norte and Canal 26 Univisión correspondent Luis Lorenzo Escalera – were arbitrarily detained and roughed up by police while covering the confiscation or counterfeit products on 30 May in Ciudad Juárez, in the northern state of Chihuahua. Hernández and Villagómez were held for half an hour at the police station without being given an explanation. Escalera was held for 45 minutes. They all filed a complaint with the municipal police internal affairs department.
The Mexico City office of CIMAC, an NGO that publishes reports about women’s issues, and the office of its own news agency, Cimac Noticias, were ransacked on 23 May for the second time since 2008. Unidentified intruders forced the door, stole a lot of material and severed the Internet connections.
When the investigation into the 2008 break-in failed to produce any result, the NGO filed a complaint with the Mexico City Human Rights Commission (CDHDF). After the latest attack, the CDHDF asked the Mexican authorities to provide CIMAC with protection, but no measures have so far been taken.
On 25 May, a judge confirmed a two-year suspended prison sentence for Héctor Camero, the representative of Radio Tierra y Libertad, a community radio station based in a poor neighbourhood of Monterrey (in the northeastern state of Nuevo León), on a charge of “using, developing and exploiting radio frequencies without a licence.” The judge also confirmed a fine of 15,777 pesos (1,360 dollars) and a suspension of his civil and political rights.
The sentence was imposed last November although Radio Tierra y Libertad was finally issued a broadcasting licence in 2009, after a seven-year wait. The prosecution of Camera has its origins in a police raid on the station in 2008. Although a suspended sentence, it marks a new setback for Mexico’s community radio stations.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the use of violence and intimidation against news media and urges the authorities to do everything possible to ensure that these cases do not go unpunished.
With the death toll from the offensive against drug trafficking that the federal government launched in December 2006 currently standing at about 40,000, Reporters Without Borders continues to relay the “No more blood - No + sangre” cartoon campaign, in which leading cartoonists are producing special cartoons throughout the year.