International PEN protests the disappearance of a third print journalist in Mexico this year. Evaristo Ortega Zárate, editor of the local newspaper Espacio, in Veracruz state, has been missing since April 20, 2010. The last time he was heard from he said he had been arrested, however the police deny any knowledge of the case. PEN calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate Ortega’s disappearance as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice.

Background Information

Evaristo Ortega Zárate, editor of the local weekly newspaper Espacio in Colipa, Veracruz state, has reportedly been missing since April 20, 2010. According to Ortega’s sister, she received several SMS messages from him that day saying that he had been arrested by police in the state capital of Xalapa. She called him and he asked her to inform the authorities and media before they got cut off. He has not been heard from since.

Ortega, who reportedly intended to run for mayor of Colipa as a candidate of the National Action Party (PAN), was last seen in a PAN branch office 10 minutes before he sent the first of the messages to his sister. Another PAN member who wanted to be the party’s mayoral candidate in Colipa, Francisco Mota Uribe, reportedly disappeared around the same time.

The local police have reportedly denied any involvement in Ortega’s disappearance. According to the Veracruz Commission for the Defense of Journalists, the state attorney general’s office took more than 24 hours to open an investigation into his disappearance even though the local authorities were notified immediately. The head of the State Commission for Human Rights has reportedly ruled out any possibility that Ortega’s disappearance is linked to his work as a journalist.

To date, Ortega is still missing and an investigation at state and federal level is ongoing.

Ortega is the third print journalist to go missing in Mexico this year. On April 6, 2010, Ramón Ángeles Zalpa of Cambio de Michoacán, in Michoacán state, disappeared after receiving anonymous phone calls, while Miguel Ángel Domínguez Zamora of Mañana, in Tamaulipas state, has been missing since March 1.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, a total of 32 writers—31 print journalists and one author—have been murdered, while nine other print journalists have disappeared. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. PEN believes that it is likely that these journalists were targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. While organized crime groups are responsible for many attacks, state agents, especially government officials and the police, are reportedly the main perpetrators of violence against journalists, and are complicit in its continuance.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the disappearance of newspaper editor Evaristo Ortega Zárate in Veracruz state on April 20, 2010;
  • Expressing serious concern that Ortega was reported to have been arrested shortly before his disappearance, yet the police deny any involvement in the case;
  • Also expressing concern that the state attorney general’s office reportedly took more than 24 hours to open an investigation into Ortega’s disappearance even though the local authorities were notified immediately;
  • Calling for a full and impartial investigation into Ortega’s disappearance and other such unsolved crimes against journalists in Mexico;
  • Calling on the government of President Felipe Calderón to fulfill promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offense, specifically by amending the Constitution so that federal authorities have the power to investigate, prosecute and punish such crimes;
  • Calling on the federal authorities to set up protection programs for journalist to ensure their safety.

Send Your Letter To

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
Email: felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx

Lic. Arturo Chávez Chávez
Procurador General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuauhtémoc
México D.F. C.P. 06500
Tel: + 52 55 5346 0108
Fax: + 52 55 53 46 0908
E-mail: ofproc@pgr.gob.mx

Dr Gustavo Salas Chávez
Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas (FEADP)
Email: feadp@pgr.gob.mx

Please also send copies of your appeals to the diplomatic representative for Mexico in your country if possible.
 
Please contact PEN if sending appeals after July 18, 2010: ftw [at] pen.org