RAN 21/09 6 May 2009
The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) protests in the strongest possible terms the murder of yet another Mexican journalist, Carlos Ortega Samper of El Tiempo de Durango, who was shot dead on 3 May – World Press Freedom Day. Ortega was known for his critical reporting on local government corruption and had reportedly been threatened by local officials a few days before he was killed. His death brings to 21 the number of writers and print journalists killed in Mexico since 2004. The WiPC calls on the Mexican authorities to carry out a full and impartial investigation into Ortega’s murder and all other unresolved journalist killings and to bring to justice those responsible. It also urges the authorities to fulfil promises to make such crimes against journalists a federal offence.
Carlos Ortega Samper (52), columnist for the daily Durango City-based newspaper El Tiempo de Durango, was shot dead in Santa María El Oro, Durango State, northern Mexico, on 3 May 3009. The journalist was driving home when he was intercepted by four unidentified men who pulled him from his car and, after a heated argument, shot him three times in the head. He died at the scene.
The previous day, 2 May, Ortega had published an article alleging that the town mayor and another local official had threatened him about a 28 April article that criticised poor hygiene standards in a local abattoir. In the 2 May article, Ortega also indicated that he was investigating allegations of corruption by a local policeman, and that these three men should be held responsible if anything happened to him.
The state attorney’s office is in charge of the investigation into Ortega’s murder and has not yet made public any motive. However, the editor of El Tiempo de Durango reportedly believes that Ortega was killed in retaliation for his reporting on local government corruption.
According to press reports, Ortega previously came under attack in early 2009, when his house was shot at and his car set on fire. He reported the incident to the authorities but no action was taken.
Ortega, who was also a lawyer, had worked for El Tiempo de Durango for a year and for the five previous years for another regional daily, El Siglo de Durango.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. From 2004 to 2008, 20 writers – 19 print journalists and one author – were murdered, while four more journalists disappeared. Few if any of these crimes have been 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 (CPJ): http://cpj.org/2009/05/reporter-who-criticized-officials-gunned-down-in-n.php
•Report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF): http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=31208