RAN 54/09 4 November 2009
The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) is shocked and saddened by the murder of Mexican journalist José Bladimir Antuna García of El Tiempo de Durango, who was abducted and killed in Durango, Durango State, on 2 November 2009. Antuna, who had been receiving death threats since late 2008, is the third print journalist to be killed in Durango State since May this year. The WiPC calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate the killing, along with all other unsolved journalist murders, as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice. It also calls for the implementation of effective journalist protection programmes.
José Bladimir Antuna García, crime and security affairs reporter for the newspaper El Tiempo de Durango, was found dead in front of a hospital in Durango, capital of Durango State, on the evening of 2 November 2009, after being abducted while on his way to work earlier that day. He was found to have died of “asphyxia from strangulation”, but according to some reports his body also bore bullet wounds to the head and abdomen. A note was found next to his body which reportedly stated: “This happened to me for giving information to soldiers and for writing too much.” In the week before his death, Antuna (39) had reportedly broken a story about police corruption in Durango and had also been investigating the unsolved murder of another El Tiempo de Durango journalist, Carlos Ortega Samper, who was similarly abducted and killed in May 2009.
Antuna had been receiving repeated death threats since late 2008 and was the target of an apparent assassination attempt on 28 April 2009. Despite reporting the latter to the Durango State Public Prosecutor’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado de Durango), Antuna was not provided with any protection and continued to receive threats. On 26 May – the same day that another Durango-based journalist, Eliseo Barrón Hernández, was found dead after having been kidnapped from his home – an anonymous call was reportedly made to the El Tiempo offices saying that Antuna would be next. Antuna had reportedly exchanged information about police corruption and organised crime with Barrón on several occasions. He had previously received numerous threats on his mobile phone and on his work telephone warning him not to publish “delicate” information. The caller sometimes identified himself as a member of Los Zetas, a paramilitary group reportedly linked to the Gulf drug cartel. One of the calls was apparently made from inside the Gómez Palacio penitentiary in Durango.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. From January 2004 to November 2009, a total 26 writers – 25 print journalists and one author – have been murdered, six of them this year alone. Four more print journalists have disappeared in the same period. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. International PEN believes that it is likely that these journalists were targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. While organised crime groups are responsible for many attacks, state agents, especially government officials and the police, are reportedly the main perpetrators of violence against journalists, and complicit in its continuance. For more information, click here.
•Report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (3 November 2009): http://cpj.org/2009/11/mexican-crime-reporter-abducted-and-slain-in-duran.php (English); http://cpj.org/es/2009/11/periodista-mexicano-quien-cubria-crimen-fue-secues.php (Spanish)
•Report by Reporters Without Borders (3 November 2009): http://www.rsf.org/Asesinado-otro-periodista-en-el.html (Spanish)
•Report by the Centre for Journalist and Public Ethics (CEPET): http://www.ifex.org/mexico/2009/11/03/antuna_garcia_threatened/ (English); http://www.ifex.org/mexico/2009/11/03/antuna_garcia_threatened/es/ (Spanish)