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MEXICO: Body of disappeared journalist found

Tuesday 7 June 2011 - 1:00am

Update #1 to RAN 13/11 7 June 2011

The Writers in Prison Committee PEN of International (WiPC) protests the murder of La Verdad de Jáltipan columnist Noel López Olguín, whose body was found in Veracruz state on 1 June 2011 following his abduction on 8 March. A drug gang leader has confessed to killing him. The motive for the crime is not known but it appears likely to be linked to López' journalism as his articles were reportedly extremely critical of local corruption. López' death brings to 38 the total of print journalists and writers murdered in Mexico since 2004. The WiPC calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate López' 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.

A columnist for La Verdad de Jáltipan newspaper, López was abducted in Jáltipan, in Veracruz state, by armed men on 8 March 2011 and was found buried in a clandestine grave in Chinameca, also in Veracruz state, on 1 June. His body was identified by his family the same day. It was located after a drug gang leader arrested by the Mexican army and found in possession of López' camera confessed on 29 May to killing the journalist and revealed where he was buried. López reportedly died from a blow to the head.

The drug leader gave no motive for the killing. However, it seems likely that it was linked to López' journalism. He was reportedly sharply critical of local corruption in his articles and columns and had appealed to the public to report abuses by the authorities and organised crime groups. Although López had worked for many years for La Verdad de Jáltipan, as well as for several other papers in Veracruz state, including the weeklies Noticias de Acayucan and Horizonte, media outlets reportedly distanced themselves from him after he was kidnapped for fear of reprisals, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Veracruz state is a major transit point for drugs trafficked to the USA. Los Zetas, a paramilitary criminal gang linked to drugs traffickers, are reportedly particularly active in the region of Jáltipan, where López lived and worked.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, 36 print journalists and two writers have been murdered, while nine print journalists have gone missing. Nine of the killings and three of the disappearances occurred in 2010 alone. 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.

Useful links

•Report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): English, Spanish
•Report by Reporters Without Borders: English, Spanish