May 14, 2009

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850
Distrito Federal, México
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376

Lic. Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza
Attorney General
Procurador General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuauhtémoc
México D.F. C.P. 06500
Fax: (+52 55) 53 46 0908

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding the murder of Carlos Ortega Samper.

According to our information, Carlos Ortega Samper, a lawyer and columnist for the daily Durango City-based newspaper El Tiempo de Durango, was shot dead in Santa María El Oro, Durango State, Northern Mexico, on May 3, 2009. The journalist was intercepted by four unidentified men while driving home. The men pulled Ortega from his car and, after a heated argument, shot him three times in the head, killing him instantly.

Ortega predicted his own death in an article that appeared on May 2 in El Tiempo de Durango. In the article, Ortega alleged that the town mayor and another official had threatened him after the publication of a previous article criticizing poor hygiene standards in a local abattoir. Ortega stated that both of these officials and a policeman, who he was investigating for corruption, should be held accountable should he be murdered. The state attorney’s office, which is running the investigation, has not yet made public any motive or accusation.

Ortega previously came under attack in early 2009 when his house was shot at and his car set on fire. He reported the incident to the authorities, but no action was taken.

PEN American Center is deeply disturbed by the murder of Carlos Ortega Samper, and by the fact that Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a reporter. Twenty journalists have been murdered since 2004, and few if any of these crimes have been punished. We believe that these writers were targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. We therefore call on the government of President Felipe Calderón to fulfill his promise to make crimes against journalists a federal offense, and expect that the government will initiate a full, prompt, and impartial investigation into Ortega’s death and all other unsolved murders of journalists in the country.

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan
Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20006

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