Two Columnists Murdered; One Editor Missing
PEN International is saddened and outraged by the murder of columnists Miguel Ángel López Velasco and Pablo Ruelas Barraza and the disappearance of editor Marco Antonio López Ortiz, all in the last two weeks. In the most recent incident, López Velasco was shot dead along with his wife and son in their home in Veracruz state on June 20, 2011, while Ruelas was gunned down in Sonora state on June 13. López Ortiz has not been seen since June 7, when he was reportedly abducted in Guerrero state. In all, a total of 40 of print journalists and writers have been murdered in Mexico since 2004, while 10 more have gone missing. PEN calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate these latest crimes as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice. It also calls on the authorities to implement the journalist protection mechanisms it promised in November 2010 immediately.
Unidentified gunmen broke into the house of Notiver columnist and editor Miguel Ángel López Velasco in Veracruz, Veraruz state, in the early hours of June 20, 2011, killing López Velasco (55), his wife Agustina Solano de López, and their son Misael (21). López Velasco was a well known journalist whose column for the daily Va de Nuez, written under the pseudonym Milo Vela, dealt with politics and security issues; he also wrote about politics and police. Local journalists have suggested that the killings could be in retaliation for a recent column about drug trafficking in the region. The governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte, has reportedly denounced the murders and ordered the state attorney general to launch a full investigation. López is the second journalist to be found dead in Veracruz state this month, following the discovery on June 1 of the body of La Verdad de Jáltipan columnist Noel López Olguin, who went missing on March 8.
Pablo Ruelas Barraza, journalist for the regional daily newsappers Diario del Yaqui in Huatabampo and El Regional de Sonora in Hermosillo, both in Sonora state, was found dead on a street in Huatabampo in the early hours of June 13. He had apparently been shot by two gunmen who had first attempted to abduct him. Ruelas (38), who covered general matters for the two papers, had received death threats from politicians from both Sonora and criminal groups, according to local media reports. Some reports suggested that Ruelas had previously served a prison sentence for drug crimes.
News editor for the daily paper Novedades Acapulco, Marco Antonio López Ortiz (42), was reportedly kidnapped in Acapulco, Guerrero state, on June 7. That night he left work and was later assaulted on the street by unidentified men who took him away. López Ortiz is responsible for overseeing the paper’s coverage of crime, among other responsibilities. According to local journalists, they are constantly threatened by organized crime groups to keep coverage to a minimum. Novedades Acapulco’s reports on crime are accordingly kept brief and do not probe the facts reported, in order to avoid angering and being targeted by the groups. The state attorney general has begun an investigation into López Ortiz’s disappearance and the National Human Rights Commission is reportedly also looking into the matter.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, 38 print journalists and two writers have been murdered, while 10 print journalists have gone missing in the same period. Nine of the killings and three of the disappearances occurred in 2010 alone. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. PEN International believes that it is likely that many of these writers 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 complicit in its continuance.
On June 3, 2011, PEN Canada, in collaboration with the International Human Rights Program at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, published a timely and provocative report on the situation in Mexico: "Corruption, Impunity, Silence: The War on Mexico's Journalists" (also available in Spanish). The same day Canada's national newspaper The Globe and Mail published an op-ed by John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International, on the report.
Write A Letter
- Protesting the murder of columnists Miguel Ángel López Velasco and Pablo Ruelas Barraza and the disappearance of editor Marco Antonio López Ortiz, between June 7 and 20, 2011;
- Calling for a full and impartial investigation into these crimes, focusing on the victims’ journalistic work as a possible motive, with the involvement of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression, as well as into all other unsolved journalist killings and disappearances in Mexico;
- Calling on the government of President Felipe Calderón to fulfill promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offense by amending the constitution so that federal authorities have the power to investigate, prosecute and punish such crimes;
- Calling on the federal authorities to implement the journalist protection mechanisms it promised in November 2010 immediately.
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: [email protected]
Salutation: Señor Presidente/ Dear Mr President
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 (if a voice answers, ask "tono de fax, por favor")
E-mail: [email protected]
Salutation: Señor Procurador General/Dear Attorney General
Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression
Dr. Gustavo Salas Chávez
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas (FEADP)
Email: [email protected]
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Mexico in your country if possible.
Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after August 21, 2011: ftw [at] pen.org