The bodies of two missing news photographers, Gabriel Huge and Luna Varela, were found yesterday, World Press Freedom Day, in plastic bags beside a canal in Boca del Río, a suburb of the eastern port city of Veracruz. They had been reported missing the day before after being asked to cover a road accident.
The discovery of the bodies came just five days after magazine reporter Regina Martínez was found murdered in Xalapa, the nearby capital of the state of Veracruz. Huge used to work for the newspaper Notiver while Luna worked for the Veracruznews agency and covered crime stories for three other local media.
The bodies of two other persons were found with those of Huge and Luna. One was Luna’s partner, Irasema Becerra, who worked in the sales department of the newspaper El Dictamen. The other was Esteban Rodríguez, a former news photographer who retired last year after Notiver journalist Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz’s murder.
The Vercruz state prosecutor’s office told Reporters Without Borders that all four bodies bore the marks of torture. Veracruznews editor Martin Lara Reyna told Reporters Without Borders that Luna had left the region at the end of 2011 after receiving threats, and had returned earlier this year.
“The federal attorney-general’s office has said it will help the state prosecutor’s office to investigate both this case and that of Regina Martínez,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We hope this cooperation will yield swift results as the state of Veracruz is now one of the world’s ten most dangerous places for the media, with a total of seven journalists killed and two missing since the start of 2010.
“The nationwide toll for the past ten years now stands at 83 journalists killed and 14 missing. What is needed is a complete overhaul of the judicial system in a country that is devastated by its ubiquitous drug cartels, by collusion between the cartels and many officials, and by a five-year-old federal offensive against drug trafficking with a toll of 50,000 dead.”
30.04.2012 - Veracruz journalist’s murder underscores need to end impunity
Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that Regina Martínez, the newsweekly Proceso’s respected correspondent in the eastern state of Veracruz, was found strangled in her home in the Veracruz capital of Xalapa on 28 April. She joins the list of 80 journalists killed and 14 disappeared in Mexico in the past decade, a toll exacerbated by the disastrous federal offensive against trafficking during the past five years.
Her murder has caused widespread dismay and has prompted demonstrations by reporters, photographers and free speech defenders in the states of Veracruz, Puebla and Morelos and in Mexico City, where Reporters Without Borders was represented.
“There are not as yet any indications as to the motive, but Martínez dedicated some of her most recent investigative reporting to the murders of other journalists in Veracruz, which became one of the country’s deadliest states in 2011,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Also, on the eve of her murder, she broke the news that nine police officers had been arrested on suspicion of colluding with drug traffickers.
“Investigators should therefore give priority to the possibility that her murder was linked to her work. The tendency on the part of the authorities to rule this out from the start is handicapping the solving of this kind of murder. We demand justice for Martínez and all the other journalists who have been killed or who are missing. Crime pays if it goes unpunished.”
Martínez’s body was found in her bathroom after a neighbour noticed that the door to her apartment had been open for several hours without any sign of movement. The body bore no signs of sexual violence. A plasma TV, a computer and two mobile phones had been removed from the apartment.
Reporters Without Borders shares the concern expressed by Proceso editor Rafael Rodríguez Castañeda, deputy editor Salvador Corro and publisher Julio Scherer García at a meeting with Veracruz’s governor yesterday, and supports their request for the reporter Jorge Carrasco to be included in the special commission that has been created to investigate the murder.
Martínez had upset officials with her reporting. She confirmed this to us in 2008, when she and fellow journalist Rodrigo Vera were summoned to give statements after Proceso published a photo linked to the murder of Ernestina Ascencio, a member of the Nahuatl indigenous community
A constitutional amendment passed by congress allowing the federal courts and investigators to handle crimes that threaten the work of journalists and freedom of information still needs the approval of seven states in order to take effect.
“Although long overdue, this amendment must be put into effect with the necessary resources in order to end the present impunity, which is unbearable,” Reporters Without Borders added.