Reporters Without Borders is shocked to learn that Miguel Ángel López Velasco, an editor and columnist with the local online daily Notiver, was shot dead along with his wife and his son in their home in the east coast city of Veracruz early yesterday, just seven days after a reporter was found murdered in the northwestern state of Sonora.
“The violence against journalists in Mexico never ends,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call on the authorities to ensure that López’s work as a journalist is treated as the most likely motive for his murder and that those responsible are identified and brought to justice as quickly as possible.”
López’s colleagues told Reporters Without Borders that the 55-year-old journalist, his wife and his 21-year-old son were asleep in their home in the northern Veracruz suburb of López Arias when unidentified armed intruders burst in and shot all three.
Also known by the pen-name of “Milo Vera,” López had been working for Notiver for about 20 years, first as a crime reporter and then as a columnist and deputy editor of the crime and local news section. In his column “Va de Nuez,” he wrote about crime, kidnappings, corruption and abuse of authority in the Veracruz area. He had also written about the case of Evaristo Ortega Zarate, a journalist missing since April 2010.
López had been threatened. In 2007, drug traffickers left a human head outside the Notiver office with this message (in which López’s pen-name was misspelled): “We are leaving you a present here (...) Heads are going to roll. Milovela knows it and many others know it too. These heads are for my dad. Yours truly, A son of Mario Sánchez and the New People.”
The authorities have launched an investigation into López’s murder and, during a visit to Notiver yesterday, Veracruz state governor Javier Duarte promised that it would be pursued to the end and that would be no room for impunity in his state.
“This is a cowardly murder,” he said. “It is not an attack on a media or a company. It is an attack on Veracruz society in its entirety (...) It is not an isolated event. On the contrary, it is part of a chain of criminal actions affecting the entire country.”
Reporters Without Borders hopes his promises will be kept. It also hopes that the federal authorities will finally start implementing the “protection mechanisms” for journalists that were approved in November 2010.
Mexico is one of the western hemisphere’s most dangerous countries for the media, which are exposed to violence by organized crime and have to censor themselves. A total of 75 journalists (nine of them from Veracruz) have been killed since 2000. Another 13 have gone missing since 2003.
Violence has been spiralling in Veracruz since 2007, with residents often witnessing clashes between security forces and drug cartels. Last year was particularly violent for the state with a total of 179 murders, according to federal government figures.
Recent media victims of the violence in Veracruz state include Noel López Olguín of the weekly Noticias de Acayucan, whose body was found on 1 June , and Evaristo Ortega Zarate of the newspaper La Opinión, who was kidnapped in April 2010.
Most than 40,000 people have been killed in the nationwide offensive against drug trafficking which the federal authorities launched in December 2006. Reporters Without Borders continues to relay the “No more blood - No más sangre” campaign by leading Mexican cartoonists.