MEXICO: Journalist abducted and murdered in Veracruz state
RAN 40/11 29 July 2011
The Writers in Prison Committee PEN of International (WiPC) protests the abduction and murder in Veracruz state of Notiver journalist Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, whose decapitated body was found on 26 July 2011, two days after she was abducted by gunmen. Ordaz’ death brings to three the number of print journalists murdered in Veracruz state this year, while six have been killed in Mexico as a whole. A total of 42 print journalists and writers have been killed in Mexico since 2004, while 10 more have gone missing. The WiPC calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate Ordaz’ murder as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice. It also calls on the authorities to implement the journalist protection mechanisms it promised in November 2010 immediately.
According to police reports, Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, crime reporter and columnist for the regional daily newspaper Notiver, was abducted by gunmen as she left her house on 24 July 2011. Her decapitated body was found two days later, near the building of the newspaper Imagen. A note found with the body seems to connect her murder with that of another Notiver columnist, Miguel Ángel López Velasco, who was shot dead along with his wife and son in their home in Veracruz state on 13 July. The note said: “Friends can also betray you” and was signed “Carranza”. A former traffic police officer named Juan Carlos Carranza Saavedra has reportedly been identified as the main suspect in López’ murder. Ordaz, who had worked as a journalist for 20 years, covered the war on drugs and the police beat for Notiver.
The Veracruz state authorities have given out mixed messages regarding their position on the investigation into Ordaz’ murder. At a press conference on 26 July, the state attorney general reportedly stated that the killing was not related to Ordaz’ journalistic work and the evidence to date seemed to indicate that her killers were members of an organized crime group. However, a spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office later confirmed to the Committee to Protect Journalists that the journalist’s work is one of the lines of investigation being followed. At the same time, according to Reporters Without Borders, the office has stated that investigators were working on the theory that the journalist’s murder was related to her alleged “links to organized crime”. Notiver has strongly denied these allegations and said that Ordaz was killed for her journalism, adding that the newspaper was itself under continuous threats. Mexico’s Human Rights Commission reportedly plans to open its own investigation into the murder.
Ordaz is the third print journalist to be murdered in Veracruz state this year: as well as López, columnist Noel López Olguín went missing in March and his body was found on 1 June. She is the sixth print journalist to be killed in Mexico since the beginning of 2011.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, 40 print journalists and two writers have been murdered, while 10 print journalists have gone missing in the same period. Nine of the killings and three of the disappearances occurred in 2010 alone; the toll for 2011 to date stands at six and one respectively. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. PEN International believes that it is likely that many of these writers 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.
On 3 June 2011, PEN Canada, in collaboration with the International Human Rights Program at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, published a timely and provocative report on the situation in Mexico: Corruption, Impunity, Silence: The War on Mexico’s Journalists (also available in Spanish). The same day Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail published an op-ed by John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International, on the report.
•Report on Ordaz’ murder by the Committee to Protect Journalists (26 July 2011) (English- Spanish)
•Report by Reporters without Borders (27 July 2011) (English)