RAN 51/09 28 September 2009
The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) is outraged by the murder of online columnist Norberto Miranda Madrid, who was shot dead by unknown assassins on 23 September 2009 after writing about drug cartels in Chihuahua state. Miranda is the fifth print journalist to be killed in Mexico this year alone. The WiPC calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate the killing, along with all other unsolved journalist murders, as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice.
Norberto Miranda Madrid, editor and columnist for the website of the online radio station Radio Visión (www.radiovisioncasasgrandes.com) and presenter for the same, as well as journalist for a number of newspapers, was shot dead at Radio Visión's offices in Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua State, northern Mexico, on 23 September 2009. According to reports, a number of men with their faces covered forced their way into the premises late that night and shot Miranda repeatedly, including in the back of the neck, after he identified himself. The journalist reportedly died at the scene. His brother, who also works for the station, was present at the time but was not injured.
Miranda (44), who had 15 years' experience as a journalist, was known for his column ‘Cotorreando con El Gallito' (Chatting with the Little Rooster, or the Tough Guy), which often covered social issues including criminal groups and the lack of public safety. His last column, published the day before he was killed, mentioned the murders of 25 people in Nuevo Casas Grandes since the beginning of September, attributed to the Juárez drug trafficking cartel. Miranda's 5 September piece referred to the capture in Nuevo Casas Grades of some members of ‘La Linea' (The Line), the armed wing of the Juárez cartel, including Rodolfo Escajada, who is on the US Drug Enforcement Administration list. Following this article Miranda was reportedly subject to harassment. The authorities are said to be reviewing Miranda's recent articles (see http://www.radiovisioncasasgrandes.com/CotorrandoConElGallito.htm) in search of a possible motive for the killing.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. From 2004 to 2009, a total 25 writers - 24 print journalists and one author - have been murdered, five of them this year alone. Four more print journalists have disappeared in the same period. 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.
Chihuahua is one of the states most affected by the violence caused by rival drug cartels and the federal government's military response. More than 14,000 people have died since the government offensive was launched in December 2006, according to Reporters Without Borders.
Miranda's death brings to five the number of print journalists murdered in Chihuahua state since 2006. The others are: Enrique Perea Quintanilla (8 August 2006); Candelario Pérez Pérez (23 June 2008); José Armado Rodríguez Carreón (13 November 2008); and Ernesto Montaez Valdivia (14 July 2009). For more information on these cases, see http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/flash/index_english.cfm
•Report on Miranda's murder by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) (25 September 2009): http://cpj.org/2009/09/mexican-journalist-killed-inside-newsroom-in-chihu.php (English)
•Report by Reporters Without Borders (25 September 2009): http://www.rsf.org/Web-radio-slain-by-hooded-gunmen.html (English); http://www.rsf.org/spip.php?page=article&id_article=34595 (Spanish)
•Miranda's recent columns (Spanish only): http://www.radiovisioncasasgrandes.com/CotorrandoConElGallito.htm
•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)