Reporters Without Borders took part in a joint fact-finding mission to the city of Nuevo Laredo from 22 to 24 April to look into the death of journalist Roberto Javier Mora García. A total of six national and international press freedom organisations participated in the mission. Its purpose was to establish how far the investigations had progressed and, if appropriate, to criticise any irregularities or gaps. A report will be released in mid-May.
The mission met senior staff of the daily El Mañana, the two suspects’ lawyers and relatives, the state of Tamaulipas public prosecutor and a member of the State Commission for Human Rights.
Three of the five other organisations taking part in this fact-finding mission - called the "Commission in Memoriam" - were Mexican: the Centro de Estudios Fronterizos y de Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CEFPDH), Libertad de Información-México (LIMAC) and Centro de Periodismo y Etica Pública (CEPET). The other two were international: PEN Club and Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción (PFC).
The Nuevo Laredo police arrested a gay couple, Mario Medina Vázquez and Hiram Oliveros Ortiz, on 28 March for Mora’s murder. The two men were his neighbours. The police claim that Medina suspected Mora of having a relationship with his partner, Oliveros, and killed Mora out of jealousy. Oliveros then helped Medina remove all traces of the murder, according to the police.
The state of Tamaulipas prosecutor said a police search of the suspects’ apartment turned up a knife that could have been the murder weapon and traces of the victim’s blood, as well as compromising finger-prints and e-mail messages. The judge however said the investigation is not yet over. A DNA analysis of blood found at the suspects’ home must still be carried out.
After allegedly admitting their involvement to police, the two suspects have retracted their supposed confessions, claiming that they were tortured. They told the judge, and then the press, that they were forced to sign depositions in which they first said they were witnesses to the murder and then said they did it. Medina, who has US nationality, has received the support the US consulate in Nuevo Laredo, which has protested about the violence he has undergone.
Mora wrote several articles about the activities of the Gulf Cartel, a drug-trafficking organisation operating in the region. His reports highlighted the alleged involvement of police and officials in the trafficking, and the involvement of former policemen known as "Zetas" in extorting businessmen on behalf of the drug traffickers. He also blamed the authorities for the climate of impunity prevailing in the state of Tamaulipas. Mora was recognised locally as a very conscientious and thorough investigative journalist.
19 March - Journalist murdered in the north of the country
Reporters Without Borders expressed its deep concern at the death of Roberto Javier Mora García, editorial director of the newspaper El Mañana, who was murdered on 19 March in the town of Nuevo Laredo bordering the United States.
The international press freedom organisation called for the opening of an investigation to identify the killers and to establish whether the murder was linked to his work as a journalist. The motive for the killing so far appears unclear.
"No stone should be left unturned. The border between Mexico and the United States, notorious for many kinds of trafficking is known to be dangerous for journalists working on sensitive investigations," the organisation said.
The last time a journalist was murdered in the northeastern Tamaulipas state goes back to 2002.
García, who as well as running El Mañana was editor-in-chief of the local financial weekly North Mexico Business, was murdered just outside his home. Investigators said it appeared he was killed around 2am as he returned from work at the newspaper.
His body was found about 15 metres away from his vehicle, which had been left with the door open and with the keys still in the ignition. He had been stabbed about 20 times.
Police ruled out the possibility of theft as the motive for the crime since his wallet was found on him.
García had published several articles about the Gulf cartel, a regional drug-trafficking gang. Heriberto Cantu, the publisher of El Mañana told the Associated Press (AP) news agency that police did not believe the cartel could have been behind the murder.
"We cannot dismiss the possibility that it has something to do with the exercise of journalism, or something personal," Cantu said however.
In an article posted on its website, El Mañana attributed the killing to the "climate of violence and instability that has taken hold in Nuevo Laredo". The daily pointed out that the journalist was the town’s 16th murder victim this year.
It also lamented the fact that the investigation had been given to the state prosecutor’s office in Tamaulipas and not to the Mexico City-based federal prosecutor’s office, which had disqualified itself on the grounds this was a "minor crime". El Mañana stressed the "integrity, ethics and extraordinary rigour" of its editorial director.
The last journalist to be killed in Tamaulipas state was Félix Alonso Fernández García, boss of the weekly Nueva Opción. He was shot dead on 18 January 2002, in the town of Miguel Alemán after revealing alleged links between the former mayor and drug-traffickers.
Some sources however suggested that the actual articles that the journalist wrote did not touch on sensitive issues and that a dose of cocaine had been found on him.