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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Three Mexican photojournalists found dismembered in Veracruz had been threatened since 2011




After authorities identified the bodies of two tortured and killed Mexican photojournalists, the Attorney General of the Mexican state of Veracruz confirmed that the other two dismembered bodies found on Thursday, May 3, also belonged to employees of the local press, reported the Program of Freedom of Expression of the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics. Drug cartels are considered suspects in the killings, which highlight the dangers of reporting in parts of Mexico, the Houston Chronicle and the Globe and Main reported.

The bodies of the two photojournalists first identified belonged to Gabriel Huge, who worked for the newspaper Notiver until 2011 and his nephew, Guillermo Luna. They were both working for the news agency VeracruzNews at the time of their deaths. Along with them, also identified were the bodies of Irasema Becerra, administrative employee for the newspaper El Dictamen and romantic partner of Luna, as well as Esteban Rodríguez, who worked as a photographer for the newspaper AZ and was a cameraman for TV Azteca, reported the news agency Proceso.

The Guardian reported that the three photojournalists were forced to flee the state of Veracruz in July 2011 after the journalist Yolanda Ordaz was killed. All three photographers worked with Ordaz in the crime section of the daily Notiver.

"After the killing, there was a rumor that there was a kind of black list of threatened journalists. One of the journalists on it was Gabriel Huge,” said Ricardo González, representative of the freedom of expression organization Article 19, in an interview with Radio Fórmula.

In Feb. 2008, photographer Gabriel Huge said that the federal police had kidnapped, tortured, and threatened him, reported the news site Sin Embargo. All three photographers killed in Veracruz on Thursday, May 3, had claimed in an Article 19 report given to the Organization of American States (OAS) that they felt threatened by local law enforcement agencies. Because the complaints weren't met with increased protection, Esteban Rodríguez, who was a crime photographer, abandoned journalism and for the past year worked as a welder for a mechanic shop, reported Notiver.

"Neither the representatives of the Sub-Secretariat of Legal Affairs and Human Rights in the Ministry of Interiors, nor the Veracruz state authorities took appropriate measures to guarantee the safety of the journalists, who are a part of a larger group of displaced reporters," said Article 19.

Luna and Huge were also colleagues of Miguel Ángel López Velasco, reporter and columnist for Notiver, who was killed in the city of Veracruz in June 2011, along with his wife and son Ismael López, a graphic reporter for the same newspaper.

With this recent multiple homicide and the killing of crime reporter Regina Martinez in April, there have now been eight journalists killed in the last 10 months -- the Associated Press noted four of those journalists were killed within a week of each other -- in Veracruz, which is considered one of the 10 most dangerous places in the world for journalists by the organization Reporters Without Borders. As of now, state authorities have not resolved any of these crimes.

Far from investigating and punishing the criminals, state attorney Reynaldo Escobar said that reporter Yolanda Ordaz worked for organized crime, reported Reporters Without Borders. The remark caused outrage among the local press.

“What we have seen in Mexico in the last years is a systematic attempt to muzzle the press that has been effective in various parts of the country, where the press has been effectively censored,” said Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism of the Americas, in an interview with the New York Times.

México is now considered the most dangerous country in the world for the press. Such violence is part of the reason that Freedom House names Mexico as one of the four Latin American countries with a "not free" press. For more information on violence in Mexico, see this map of attacks against the Mexican press created by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.



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