Drug wars threatening Mexican crime reporting

The back to back murders of two prominent crime journalists have cast a dark shadow over Mexican press freedom.

Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, 55, a former deputy director and well established crime columnist for the newspaper Notiver of Veracuz was the second journalist killed in Mexico in a week.

Pablo Ruelas Barraza, a freelance crime reporter, received death threats before he was killed on 13 June  in the northeastern state of Sonora.

It is not clear who killed Velasco, but it is rumoured that he is the latest victim of drug gangs, supporting the view that cartels are silencing Mexican media. Velasco, his wife and 21 year old son, Misael, were killed by intruders who broke into his home early Wednesday morning, 21 June. Velasco wrote the column Va de Nuez, or “In a nutgraph”.

Notiver is a very important local newspaper that was well known for its crime reporting. According to a Veracruz based reporter, the daily newspaper has tamed its reporting style since last year, supposedly after threats from drug lords.

A review of crime reporting,  conducted by the Mexico City-based Fundacion MEPI de Periodismo de Investigacion, found that  Notiver had reduced the number of organized crime stories it covered in the first six months of 2010. In 2007, drug traffickers allegedly left a human head in front of the newspaper’s office with left a note that mentioned Lopez Velasco’s nickname.