Miami (May 6, 2009)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today denounced the murder of journalist Carlos Ortega Melo Samper in the Mexican state of Durango – the third this year -- and called on the federal government to act immediately to end the pattern of violence unleashed against the press.
According to information gathered by the IAPA’s Rapid Response Unit (RRU) in Mexico, Ortega Melo Samper, correspondent for El Tiempo de Durango, Santa María del Oro, Durango, was killed on Sunday (May 3), around 5 p.m. when he was cut off by four men in a pickup while driving home. As he got out of his car to complain the men attempted to kidnap him; when he resisted one of them shot him in the head three times with a 40 caliber pistol. He died instantly.
The journalist, 52, also a lawyer by profession, had worked at the newspaper for six months reporting on misconduct within the local municipal government; his no-holds-barred style resulted in two attempts on his life -- in one his vehicle was burned and in the other shots were fired at his home. Santa María del Oro has been the scene of increased drug trafficking, drug consumption and acts of violence in recent years.
IAPA president, Enrique Santos Calderón, El Tiempo, Colombia, expressed his support of the reporter's family and colleagues, and, at the same time, appealed to "the authorities in command to swiftly investigate, uncover the motives and hold those responsible for the murder to justice, and asked for the same attention to other unsolved crimes in Mexico, "where the state of impunity," he stated, "generates more violence".
According to RRU information, in late April Ortega Melo Samper wrote a report condemning unsanitary conditions at the town's sole market, run by the municipal government. The mayor, Martín Silvestre Herrera, protested fiercely and on May 1 the journalist reported this fact, holding both the mayor and Juan Manuel Calderón Herrera, manager of local social programs, responsible for any harm that he might come to. He also announced that he was going to expose unlawful activity and corruption involving municipal public prosecutor, Salvador Flores Triana, who was later cited as a suspect in the murder.
The newspaper’s editor, Víctor Manuel Garza, told the RRU that senior state officials had promised to issue summonses to the mayor and all the suspects mentioned by the journalist in his last report. Official investigations have not ruled out the possibility that organized crime may have been involved in the murder or that the victim’s profession as a litigation attorney might have been the reason behind it.
The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, recalled that one of the conclusions of the IAPA-organized conference titled The Press, The Government and Impunity, held in Mexico City on April 24, was to demand that the Mexican government safeguard the press' work by bringing the full weight of the law to bear on those who attack journalists – both the perpetrators and the instigators.
Earlier this year two other journalists were murdered in Mexico – Luis Daniel Méndez Hernández in Vera Cruz and Jean Paul Ibarra Ramírez in Guerrero, both presumably for reasons connected to their work.
To see the results of the RRU investigation into this case, go to http://www.impunidad.com/index.php?showreporte=114&pub=272&idioma=sp (only Spanish)