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MEXICO: Second journalist murdered in Durango state

Friday 29 May 2009 - 1:00am

RAN 24/09 29 May 2009

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) is shocked by the abduction and murder of La Opinión crime reporter Eliseo Barrón Hernández on 25-26 May 2009. Barrón, who had recently covered a police corruption scandal, is the second journalist to be shot dead in Durango state this month. His death brings to 22 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 Barrón'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.

Eliseo Barrón Hernández, crime reporter for the Torreón-based daily newspaper La Opinión and other local newspapers in Gómez Palacio, Durango state, was abducted on 25 May 2009 and subsequently murdered. On the night of 25 May around eight hooded and armed men reportedly entered Barrón's house in Gómez Palacio, beat him in front of his wife and two children, and forced him into a vehicle parked outside. His body was found the next morning in a ditch in the municipality of Tlahualiko, Durango, next to Coahuila state. He had a gunshot wound to his head and according to some reports his body also bore signs of torture.

Barrón (35) had reportedly covered police and crime for La Opinión, based in Torreón in the neighbouring state of Coahuila, for the last 10 years. It is understood that he had recently reported on a corruption scandal in the Torreón police as a result of which 302 police officers were fired and at least 20 others were investigated.

The journalist's family has filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR). The local authorities have not make public any leads or possible motives for the crime, however the investigation has reportedly been taken over by federal authorities for reasons that are as yet unclear.

Barrón is the second journalist to be killed in Durango state this month, following the fatal shooting of El Tiempo de Durango reporter Carlos Ortega Samper on 3 May - World Press Freedom Day (for more information on Ortega's murder, click here). Durango is reportedly an important centre for the drugs trafficking trade.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. From 2004 to 2009, 22 writers - 21 print journalists and one author - have been murdered, 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.

Useful links

•Report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ):
•Report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF):
•Report by the National Center for Social Communication (CENCOS):