Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MEXICO: Journalist disappears in Veracruz

29 March 2011

The Writers in Prison Committee PEN of International (WiPC) is deeply concerned by the disappearance of newspaper journalist Noel López Olguín, who was last seen in Jáltipan, Veracruz state, on 8 March 2011. It is feared that he has been abducted by an armed group with links to drugs trafficking, which is rife in Veracruz. López is the second print journalist to go missing in the state in a year, following the disappearance of Espacio editor Evaristo Ortega Zárate on 20 April 2010. A total of 10 print journalists have gone missing in Mexico since 2004 while 37 have been killed. The WiPC calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate López' disappearance as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice. It also calls on the authorities to implement the journalist protection mechanisms it promised in November 2010 immediately.

The following is an excerpt from a press release by Reporters Without Borders dated 25 March 2011:

Reporters Without Borders is disturbed to learn that Noel López Olguín, a journalist based in the eastern state of Veracruz, has been missing for the past two and a half weeks. López works for the local weeklies Horizonte and Noticias de Acayucan and the daily La Verdad.

Gerardo Perdomo, the head of the Veracruz State Commission for the Defence of Journalists, told the press freedom organization that no one has heard from López since 8 March, when he set off for Soteapan, a town in the south of the state, to "sort out a problem" after getting a phone call.

His car was found on the road to Soteapan the next day but it contained no clues as to his whereabouts.

Various sources said he was probably kidnapped by an armed group. The fact that his family and colleagues refuse to talk about his disappearance, apparently for fear of reprisals, tends to confirm this hypothesis. Time is of the essence, and Reporters Without Borders urges the Veracruz authorities to assign all possible resources to the search for López.

Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Veracruz is a major transit point in the trafficking of drugs to the United States. The feared paramilitary group Los Zetas is reportedly very active in the area around Jáltipan, the town where López lives and works, which is located near Veracruz's southern border with Oaxaca state. Abductions and murders are frequent there.

This area of Veracruz would be as good a place as any to start implementing the "protection mechanisms" (http://en.rsf.org/mexico-tv-technician-killed-in-coahuila-11-02-2011,39538.html) for journalists promised by the federal government, which were agreed on at meeting organized by the interior ministry on 3 November 2010.

La Verdad reported on 25 February that two of its journalists - Fabián Antonio Santiago Hernández and his father, Margarito Santiago Pérez - had been kidnapped. They were fortunately released five hours later.

Veracruz already has two missing journalists. They are Evaristo Ortega Zárate, the editor of the Colipa-based weekly Espacio, missing since 19 April 2010 (http://en.rsf.org/mexico-newspaper-editor-sends-text-23-04-2010,37138.html), and Jesús Mejía Lechuga, an employer of radio MS-Noticias in Martínez de la Torre, missing since 10 July 2003.

(See: http://en.rsf.org/mexico-newspaper-reporter-missing-in-25-03-2011,39881.html; for the Spanish version see: http://es.rsf.org/mexico-un-periodista-desaparecido-en-el-25-03-2011,39882.html)

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, a total of 37 writers - 35 print journalists and two writers - have been murdered, while 10 other print journalists have gone missing. Nine of the killings and three of the disappearances occurred in 2010 alone. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. PEN International believes that it is likely that many of these writers were targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. While organised crime groups are responsible for many attacks, state agents, especially government officials and the police, are reportedly the main perpetrators of violence against journalists, and complicit in its continuance.

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