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”.


Veracruz: reporter missing in Mexico’s most dangerous state

A reporter and photographer from the south-eastern Mexican state of Veracruz is missing.

Miguel Morales Estrada has not been seen for a week in the embattled city of Poza Rica, a town largely controlled by the Zetas drug cartel. Estrada was a freelancer for three different news outlets in the southern city. He is the third journalist reported missing in the last few months in areas that have seen confrontation between the Zetas and other drug cartels. The other two, Federico Manuel Garcia Contreras and Zane Alejandro Plemmons Rosales, both disappeared in June in the cities of San Luis Potosi and Taumalipas, also cities where the Zetas are battling for control with other cartels.


Another journalist murdered in eastern Mexico

Another journalist from the Mexican state of Veracruz was found murdered on 14 June.

Victor Baez, the Veracruz state crime reporter for the national Milenio newspaper, had been kidnapped on Wednesday outside the offices of website Reporteros Policiacos, where he also worked as an editor. According to police in Veracruz, the drug cartel Zetas claimed responsibility for the murder. Police are now providing security to other staff at the website.

Baez’s body was dumped in downtown Xalapa, a city in the southern state of Veracruz, where seven journalists and one former journalist have been killed in the last six months.

The authorities claim they are following tips linking the murders to local government officials but there have not been arrests over any of the homicides.

The most recent murder comes on the heels of the disappearance of another reporter in the northern state of Coahuila. Stephania Cardoso, 28, a crime reporter for the Saltillo-based daily Zocalo, was reported missing on Friday last week together with her young son. Cardoso was last seen at a party given the previous day in celebration of Mexico’s national freedom of expression day. This week, Cardoso called a national television programme and said she was in hiding fearing for her life. No further information on her whereabouts has been released.

Both the murder and disappearance come within days of the approval by Mexico of landmark legislation that federalises crimes against freedom of expression. The new legislation would allow federal authorities to investigative these crimes over state authorities. Federal procedural and penal codes changes are still pending to make the new law operational.

Mexico: Fourth journalist killed in Veracruz in two months

The body of Mexican journalist Víctor Manuel Báez Chino was found yesterday near the main square in Xalapa, capital of Veracruz state, making him the fourth journalist to be killed in Veracruz in the past two months. A state spokeswoman has said officials received reports that three armed men abducted Báez on Wednesday night, she also indicated that an organised crime cartel was responsible. Báez covered the crime beat in the state capital.