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Mexican Police Free Reporters Nabbed by Drug Gang
email this pageprint this pageemail usOlga R. Rodriguez - Associated Press
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August 01, 2010

Mexican police rescue two television journalists kidnapped by drug cartel members. Reuters' Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Mexico City Federal police rescued two kidnapped news cameramen in northern Mexico on Saturday, five days after they were seized by drug traffickers in a bid to get their employers to broadcast cartel messages.

Local journalists in Mexico have long been under siege from drug traffickers, but Monday's kidnapping of journalists with national television networks, including the nation's largest Televisa, shocked many Mexicans. Two other journalists abducted the same day were released earlier.

Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said Javier Canales of Milenio Multimedia Television and Alejandro Hernandez of Televisa were freed before dawn Saturday in the city of Gomez Palacio, where the men had been held in a residential area.

Garcia Luna, who was accompanied by the two cameramen at a Mexico City news conference, said the Sinaloa drug cartel was responsible for the abductions and that the kidnappers guarding the reporters escaped.

The Sinaloa drug cartel is run by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most-wanted drug lord. On Thursday, one of the cartel's leaders, Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, was killed by troops in an unrelated military operation in the western city of Guadalajara.

"What this criminal group sought ... was the transmission of organized crime messages that would have an impact on the community," Garcia Luna said.

Shortly after the abductions, the kidnappers demanded that the journalists' employers broadcast videos of two police officers and two civilians being interrogated and accusing officials of favoring the rival Zetas drug gang.

Milenio Television on Tuesday aired the three short videos.

Media advocates called the new tactic an escalation of a campaign by drug gangs to control information.

The cameramen were abducted along with a Televisa reporter after leaving a prison where they had covered a protest against the arrest of its warden.

The reporter, Hector Gordoa, was freed Thursday after authorities negotiated his release, Garcia Luna said.

A journalist for a local newspaper was abducted the same day in a separate incident in Gomez Palacio. Garcia Luna said that reporter, Oscar Solis, had been released earlier in the week.

Garcia Luna said the federal police decided to raid the house after the kidnappers failed to free the cameramen.

Hernandez said his captors tortured them physically and psychologically.

"All day and all night, they would intimidate us psychologically and it was very hard," Hernandez said.

He said he was beaten Friday with a wood board.

"Here are the scars," Hernandez said pointing to a bloody gauze on his head.

Canales said their kidnappers also threatened to hurt their families.

"I want to thank God that we're here. You can say we were born again," Canales said. "It was all very sad."

Authorities say a dispute between the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel has resulted in rising violence in the Laguna region, which includes Gomez Palacio and Lerdo in Durango state and Torreon in neighboring Coahuila

Press freedom groups say Mexico is one of the deadliest countries for journalists. More than 60 have been killed there since 2000, according to the National Human Rights Commission, and many have been harassed and threatened by drug gangs.

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