RAN 29/09 22 July 2009
The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) protests in the strongest possible terms the murder of two more Mexican print journalists within two days of each other, bringing the death toll this year alone to four. Reporter Martín Javier Miranda Aviles died of stab wounds in Zitacuaro, Michoacán state, on 12 July 2009, while editor Ernesto Montañez Valdivia was shot dead in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state, on 14 July 2009. The motives for the killings are not yet known. The WiPC is calling on the federal and state authorities to investigate the murders immediately and to bring the culprits to justice.
Martín Javier Miranda Avilés, reporter for the daily newspaper Panorama and correspondent for the news agency Quadratin, was found dead with two knife wounds in his back at his home in Zitacuaro, Michoacán state, southwest Mexico, on 12 July 2009. The motive for the killing is not clear. Miranda Avilés only covered crime very occasionally. His colleagues reportedly stated that he had recently received threats, but also thought it likely that the killing was a ‘crime of passion’. However, according to the management of Panorama, the murder could have been intended as a reprisal against the newspaper. Two weeks earlier, some news vendors were reportedly attacked while selling an edition of Panorama that contained a report on the arrest of a police officer in possession of weapons and drugs.
Two days later, on 14 July, Ernesto Montañez Valdivia, editor for local newspaper Enfoque del Sol de Chihuahua, was shot dead while driving his car in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state, in the north of the country. His 17-year-old son, who was him at the time, was badly wounded and was taken to hospital. The car bore a sticker saying “Press 2007″ as well as his newspaper’s name. However, there were reportedly 325 such killings in Chihuahua state in June alone.
Chihuahua and Michoacán are said to be the two regions of Mexico most affected by warring drug cartels and the federal government’s drive against drug trafficking. Miranda Avilés’ death reportedly occurred the same day as the arrest of Arnoldo Rueda Medina, a key member of the Michoacán-based cartel known as “The Family”, which was followed by a marked increase in violence, including an attack on a police station in Zitacuaro.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. The deaths of Miranda Avilés and Montañez Valdivia bring to four the number of print journalists killed in the country this year alone.
The two previous murders both took place in Durango state, which is also said to be an important centre for the drugs trafficking trade. El Tiempo de Durango reporter Carlos Ortega Samper was shot dead on 3 May – World Press Freedom Day – after being threatened by local officials (for more information on Ortega’s murder, click here). Crime reporter Eliseo Barrón Hernández was abducted and murdered on 25-26 May following his coverage of a police corruption scandal (for more information on Barrón’s killing, click here).
From 2004 to 2009, a total 24 writers – 23 print journalists and one author – have been murdered in Mexico, while four more 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. For more information, click here.
· Report on murders by Reporters Without Borders (16 July 2009): http://www.rsf.org/Two-journalists-killed-within-24.html (English); http://www.rsf.org/Asesinan-a-dos-periodistas-en,33863.html (Spanish)
· Report on journalist murders and impunity in Mexico by La Fundación para la Libertad de Expresión (Fundalex) (20 July 2009): http://fundalex.blogspot.com (Spanish only)
· Special report on ‘Reporting, and surviving, in Ciudad Juárez by the Committee to Protect Journalists (24 June 2009): http://cpj.org/reports/2009/06/mexico-special-report-reporting-in-juarez.php (English); http://cpj.org/es/2009/06/informar-y-sobrevivir-en-ciudad-juarez.php (Spanish)