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Woman journalist's murder turns Veracruz into deadliest state for media this year

Woman journalist’s murder turns Veracruz into deadliest state for media this year

Published on Wednesday 27 July 2011.
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Yesterday’s discovery of the body of Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, a crime reporter and columnist for the regional daily Notiver in the east-coast port city of Veracruz, adds her name to the long list of journalists who have been murdered or have disappeared in Mexico. A total of 77 have been killed since 2000 and 23 have gone missing since 2003.

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According to a Reporters Without Borders tally, seven Mexican journalists have been murdered since the start of the year and an eighth is missing. In two of the cases, there was a direct link with the victim’s work.

Ordaz was the third journalist to be killed this year in Veracruz state, making it the deadliest single state for the media so far this year. The other two were a colleague of Ordaz at Notiver, Miguel Ángel López Velasco, also known as “Milo Vela”, and Noel López Olguín.

“In this case, as in most of the previous ones, which are still unpunished, we are outraged by the way the local authorities rule out any link with the victim’s work as a journalist and encourage nasty rumours about the victim even before they start investigating the case,” said Reporters Without Borders, which visited Veracruz state shortly before this week’s tragedy.

“Ordaz was one of those journalists who were exposed to danger because of their reporting speciality. At the same time, a link to organized crime obviously cannot be excluded in a state where three feared gangs, the Zetas, the Gulf Cartel and Michoacán’s La Familia, operate. And it is hard not to link Ordaz’s murder with that of her colleague, López, whose columns may have upset certain officials.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “In a climate fraught with suspicion and self-censorship, there is an urgent need for mechanisms to protect journalists.” A new, federal-level security agreement signed last November has still not been implemented.

Ordaz was found with her throat cut near the offices of the Imagen del Golfo newspaper 48 hours after her abduction on 24 July. A written message found beside the body said: “Friends also betray. Sincerely, Carranza.” Juan Carlos Carranza Saavedra, 33, has been identified by the state prosecutor as the person who murdered López and his family in June. “The motive could be linked to a personal difference” between López and Carranza, the prosecutor’s office said, without offering any further explanation.

During its recent visit to Veracruz, Reporters Without Borders learned that, a few days before his murder, López had a heated exchange of words with a nephew of state governor Javier Duarte about information published in Notiver. On the morning of his murder, a column by López had questioned the reputation of two candidates for the job of Veracruz city traffic police chief. Several journalists also told Reporters Without Borders that journalists had been fired at several news media on direct orders from local officials.

In the Ordaz murder, the state prosecutor’s office immediately ruled out any link with her work as a journalist, but said investigators were working on the theory that it had something to do with her “links to organized crime.” Notiver’s management did not want to answer Reporters Without Borders’ questions for the time being.

Ordaz is the fourth woman journalist to be killed in Mexico in the past decade. Guadalupe García Escamilla of radio Estéreo 91 was murdered in Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas) on 16 April 2005. Felicitas Martínez and Teresa Bautista of Triqui indigenous community radio station La Voz que Rompe el Silencio were the victims of a double murder in Oaxaca state on 7 April 2008. A fifth woman journalist, Maria Esther Aguilar Cansimbe, has been missing in Michoacán state since 11 November 2009.

A report prepared for a US congressional committee headed by Republican senator Charles Grassley revealed yesterday that 122 firearms from the United States were found at crime scenes in Mexico or were intercepted en route to Mexican drug cartels.

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