Update #1 to RAN 46/11 26 August 2011
The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International (WiPC) is dismayed to learn that journalist Humberto Millán Salazar, who was abducted in Culiacán, Sinaloa state on 24 August 2011, was found dead the next day. Millán was editor of the online newspaper A-Discusión and presenter for Radio Fórmula. It has been suggested that the crime may be linked to his criticism of local politicians. His murder brings the number of print journalists killed in Mexico this year to seven. The WiPC calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate this Millán’s murder as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice.
A veteran journalist with over 30 years’ experience of political reporting, Humberto Millán Salazar (53) was abducted near his home in Culiacán, capital of Sinaloa state, on the morning of 24 August 2011. He was reportedly on his way to present the news at Radio Fórmula when he was intercepted by masked armed men who forced him into a car. His brother was with him at the time but was released uninjured. The kidnapping reportedly took place in a matter of seconds, suggesting it had been meticulously planned.
Following a search operation by the Sinaloa state authorities, Millán’s body was found in a field outside Culiacán on 25 August 2011, according to the state attorney general. He had been shot in the head. The state attorney general, the National Human Rights Commission and the State Human Rights Commission are all said to be investigating.
Some of the most powerful drug groups operate in Sinaloa state, including the Sinaloa cartel. However, local journalists told the Committee to Protect Journalists that they doubted that the Sinaloa cartel had carried out the killing as Millán wrote exclusively about party politics. A lawyer colleague of Millán’s, Bersahí Osuna, has said he believes that the journalist was abducted as a result of his criticism of local politicians, notably the current and former state governors.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, 41 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 seven 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.
Reports on Millán’s abduction and murder:
•Committee to Protect Journalists (25 August 2011): English
•Associated Press (25 August 2011); English
•El Universal (25 August 2011): Spanish