RAN 34/10 18 May 2010
The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) protests the disappearance of a third print journalist in Mexico this year. Evaristo Ortega Zárate, editor of the local newspaper Espacio, Veracruz state, has been missing since 20 April 2010. The last time he was heard from he said he had been arrested, however the police deny any knowledge of the case. The WiPC calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate Ortega’s disappearance as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice.
Evaristo Ortega Zárate, editor of the local weekly newspaper Espacio in Colipa, Veracruz state, has reportedly been missing since 20 April 2010. According to Ortega’s sister, she received several SMS messages from him that day saying that he had been arrested by police in the state capital of Xalapa. She called him and he asked her to inform the authorities and media before they got cut off. Nothing has been heard from him since.
Ortega, who reportedly intended to run for mayor of Colipa as a candidate of the National Action Party (PAN), was last seen in a PAN branch office 10 minutes before he sent the first of the messages to his sister. Another PAN member who wanted to be the party’s mayoral candidate in Colipa, Francisco Mota Uribe, reportedly disappeared around the same time.
The local police have reportedly denied any involvement in Ortega’s disappearance. According to the Veracruz Commission for the Defence of Journalists, the state attorney-general’s office took more than 24 hours to open an investigation into his disappearance even though the local authorities were notified immediately. The head of the State Commission for Human Rights has reportedly ruled out any possibility that Ortega’s disappearance is linked to his work as a journalist.
To date, Ortega is still missing and an investigation at state and federal level is ongoing.
Ortega is the third print journalist to go missing in Mexico this year. On 6 April 2010, Ramón Ángeles Zalpa of Cambio de Michoacán, Michoacán state, disappeared after receiving anonymous phone calls, while Miguel Ángel Domínguez Zamora of Mañana, Tamaulipas state, has been missing since 1 March.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, a total of 32 writers – 31 print journalists and one author – have been murdered, while nine other print journalists have disappeared. 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.
•Report by Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET) (22 April 2010): http://www.ifex.org/mexico/2010/04/23/ortega_missing/ (English), http://www.ifex.org/mexico/2010/04/23/ortega_missing/es/ (Spanish)
•Report by Reporters Without Borders (23 April 2010): http://en.rsf.org/mexico-newspaper-editor-sends-text-23-04-2010,37138.html (English), http://es.rsf.org/mexico-un-periodista-avisa-a-traves-de-un-23-04-2010,37137.html (Spanish)