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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkTravel Writers' Resources | August 2006 

In Mexico, New Attacks Against Journalists
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Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has more than 120 correspondents worldwide.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

Physical attacks against Mexican journalists and press institutions continue to take their toll. Veteran Chihuahua journalist Enrique Perea became the latest victim when he disappeared Aug. 7. Perea's tortured and bullet-riddled body was found two days later outside Chihuahua City. A well-known crime reporter who had worked for El Heraldo newspaper of Chihuahua City and other press outlets, Perea had founded a new magazine dedicated to covering organized crime themes. In its last issues, Perea's magazine criticized the Chihuahua state government for the high rates of violent crime in the border state.

Perea was the 25th Mexican journalist murdered since 1995. Three other journalists are missing. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Mexico is now second only to Colombia in the number of journalists murdered in the Western Hemisphere during the last 11 years.

In southern Mexico, two attackers, one of whom was armed with an Israeli-style Uzi submachine gun, assaulted the offices of the Noticias daily in Oaxaca City, also on Aug. 9. Six persons were wounded in the shooting, including newspaper vendors Isabel Cruz and Adrian Cervantes. Noticias is Oaxaca state's largest circulation daily and a vocal opponent of the state government run by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The newspaper has had a long-running battle with business and political sectors connected to the PRI. After violent attacks were directed against Noticias in 2004, the IACHR ordered the implementation of protective measures.

Far from isolated incidents, the most recent attacks against the press should be viewed as part and parcel of a landscape of criminal and political violence. Gangland-style executions like the Perea killing are almost a daily occurrence in Chihuahua state.

In the same week the well-known journalist was killed, other slayings bearing the hallmarks of organized crime splashed across the headlines. Marcos Arturo Nazar Contreras, the chief of the Chihuahua State Agency for Investigations in Ciudad Juarez, was gunned down by assassins on Aug. 7, while Julio Cesar Vazquez Manjarraz, the owner of the New Paradise bar in Ciudad Juarez, was shot to death in an Aug. 9 incident outside his business establishment.

In Oaxaca, violence arising from political motives is on the upswing. A mass uprising against PRI Governor Ulises Ruiz continues to gain force as opponents organized into the Popular Assembly of the Oaxacan People (APPO) seize city halls, set up roadblocks and stage economic boycotts to force Ruiz from office. The protestors are demanding that the federal congress dissolve state powers in Oaxaca. On Wednesday, Aug. 9, the same day as the Oaxaca City attack against the Noticias daily, three members of the Unifying Movement of the Independent Triqui Struggle and the APPO were killed in an ambush in the Mixteca region of the state.

Meanwhile, Mexican journalist Rafael Ortiz Martinez remains missing after he vanished more than one month ago in northern border state of Coahuila. The 32-year-old reporter for the Zocalo newspaper of Moncolva was last reported seen the afternoon of Saturday, July 8. Shortly before his disappearance, Ortiz had published stories about clandestine prostitution in Moncolva.

Unconfirmed versions report that Ortiz also had knowledge about a rape reportedly committed by Mexican soldiers in the municipality of Frontera this summer. In an interview with the Mexico City-based Cimac news service, Frontera Mayor Rogelio Ramos Sanchez denied that Mexican soldiers were involved in a rape in his municipality's red-light zone. Ramos contended that he knew Ortiz "got lost," and strongly suggested that the media "be very careful about what it says."

Ortiz's disappearance attracted the attention of the international journalist community. The Mexico City-based Center for Journalism and Public Ethics sent letters of concern to President Vicente Fox, Coahuila Gov. Humberto Moreira and David Vega, a special federal prosecutor for crimes against journalists.

Responding on behalf of Gov. Moreira, Coahuila State Attorney General Jesus Torres Charles wrote, "We share the concern that exists for Rafael Ortiz's physical safety, and for the attack against freedom of expression and the press that this incident could imply." Attorney General Torres pledged to devote the state's full resources in an effort to locate Ortiz. Weeks later, however, there is no sign of the disappeared journalist.

-- La Jornada, Aug. 10, 2006. Articles by Hermann Bellinghausen and Octavio Velez.
-- El Diario de Juarez, Aug. 10, 2006. Article by Mauricio Rodriguez.
--, Aug. 9, 2006.
-- El Universal, Aug. 8 and Aug. 9, 2006. Articles by Luis Carlos Cano, Carlos Coria Rivas and Genaro Altamirano.
-- Proceso/Apro, Aug. 8, 2006.
--, July 31, 2006 and Aug. 8, 2006. Articles by Soledad Jarquin Edgar and editorial staff.

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