Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Organized Crime Continues to Target Journalists in Mexico

Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Organized Crime Continues to Target Journalists in Mexico

Article excerpt

The Mexican news media remains under siege, with at least two violent attacks on print and broadcast journalists reported within a month. A third journalist, who has not been seen for several days, is also suspected of having met with foul play.

The violence against journalists is part of a pattern that has evolved in Mexico during the past dozen years (see SourceMex, 2004-10-13), but the number of incidents has risen at an alarming rate in the past 18 to 24 months.

Violence against journalists in Mexico is the highest in the Americas, surpassing even Colombia, said the French-based international watchdog organization Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), or Reporters Without Borders. The number of Mexican journalists killed while performing their duties was the fourth highest in the world in 2004, surpassed only by Iraq, Bangladesh, and the Philippines, said the RSF.

As with most of the journalist deaths in recent years, the three latest victims may have been targeted because of their extensive coverage of the drug trade in Mexico. Two victims, editor-publisher Raul Gibb Guerrero and radio reporter Dolores Guadalupe Garcia Escamilla, were shot to death in plain sight, while newspaper reporter Alfredo Jimenez is thought to have been kidnapped.

Editor of Veracruz newspaper murdered in ambush

Gibb Guerrero, who published the daily newspaper La Opinion in the industrial city of Poza Rica in Veracruz state, was ambushed by four assassins who riddled his vehicle with bullets as he traveled home on a public highway.

The editor-publisher had received several death threats after his newspaper printed several pieces exposing drug-trafficking and gasoline-theft operations in the area. The news received wide coverage because La Opinion is considered one of the most influential daily newspapers in Veracruz state.

"He was never intimidated by threats," said a La Opinion editorial. "On the contrary, when our articles caused strong reactions, he would ask us to explore even deeper those cases of corruption and impunity that make such reporting necessary."

In particular, La Opinion had targeted the violent Gulf cartel, led by notorious drug trafficker Osiel Cardenas. "[Gibb] had written directly about the Gulf cartel...and their entire corrupt network," said Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, who runs the organized-crime unit (Subprocuraduria de Investigacion Especializada en Delincuencia Organizada, SIEDO) at the Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR).

Gibb is the fourth editor targeted by organized crime in less than a year. Those murdered in 2004 were Roberto Javier Mora Garcia, editorial director of El Manana in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, and Francisco Ortiz Franco, an editor with the Tijuana-based weekly newspaper Semanario Zeta, (see SourceMex, 2004-06-30 and 2004-10-13). The third victim was Leodegario Aguilera Lucas, editor of the Acapulco-based magazine Mundo Politico.

Tamaulipas radio reporter shot nine times

Reporters and columnists have also been targets of the drug cartels, as evidenced by the cold-blooded assault on Garcia Escamilla. A police reporter for Nuevo Laredo radio station XHNOE Stereo 91 in Tamaulipas, Garcia was shot nine times outside the building housing her news operation. She spent two weeks in critical condition at a local hospital, but was unable to survive the impact of the bullet wounds, which had entered her body through her arms, legs, and stomach.

Colleagues said Garcia was targeted because of her reports on a dramatic increase in drug-related crime in her community. Nidia Egremy, an officer with the Fraternidad de Reporteros de Mexico, said Garcia might have also angered local officials because of her reports on municipal corruption in Nuevo Laredo.

The attacks led XHNOE and other Tamaulipas radio stations to hire guards to protect reporters. "The state of Tamaulipas is the most dangerous one in Mexico if you are independent and critical," said Egremy. …

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