Questions remain as governor names Regina Martinez “killer”

On 30 October, the state government of Veracruz announced it had solved the murder of Proceso magazine reporter Regina Martinez, who was killed in April this year. In her 10 years as a Proseco journalist, Martinez had frequently reported on drug trafficking in the region.

A vigil calling for justice for Regina Martinez, May 2012 – Demotix

Veracruz officials named Jorge Antonio Hernadez Silva as one of two alleged murderers. Silva is reported to have confessed to the murder and named a second suspect, Jose Adrian Hernandez, who is still at large.

According to state Governor Javier Duarte, the killer told investigators that the motive for the murder was robbery . He apparently said that Martinez let both suspected killers into her home at around 11pm; an argument erupted and she was strangled and killed.

But the government version of events has been rejected by the Martinez’s former employers at Proceso magazine, and  Mexico’s federal Attorney General’s office has also questioned the state investigation.

The controversy over Martinez’s killing is just the latest event to pit Veracruz’s press and Javier Duarte’s government against each other. Proceso claims that in the 23 months since Duarte took office, he has had a tense relationship with the local press. Nine reporters have been killed during that time, three more have disappeared and 30 have fled the state because of threats against them.

The governor’s press office has aggressively campaigned against “negative” news. Its press officers often call local media to ask that reporters write stories more “positively”. Proceso staffers believe that Duarte, in naming Martinez’s killer, is trying to close a  high-profile case that has become a problem for his office and the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), just weeks before the PRI President Elect Enrique Peña Nieto takes office.

Michael O’Connor of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has said the state investigation made no sense.  The CPJ report says the state “is fabricating a murder case against the wrong people” and according to O’Connor who has interviewed Martinez’s friends and reviewed the crime scene investigation, the government’s story has some major holes.

First is the claim that Martinez willingly let the men who killed her into her home at 11pm for a late night chat. Friends of the late journalist interviewed by O’Connor said she cherished her privacy and never invited people into her house — even close friends.

Secondly, O’Connor said the crime scene investigation report states that Regina was surprised by her assailants while she was in the bathroom — this doesn’t fit with the defendants version of events.

Writing in Proceso MagazineAlberto J Olvera, a journalist and researcher at the Universidad Veracruzana, has said: “Authorities will have to convince the Mexican people, and specially the journalism community, that the investigation is seriously backed by scientific evidence.  Their case is weak”.