The International Federation of Journalists condemned today the “cold and calculated assassination” of Mexican political journalist and commentator Francisco Arratia Saldierna, a reporter covering the hazardous crime beat along Mexico’s border with the United States.
On 31 August, Saldierna was kidnapped and tortured in the northeastern city of Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas. He was lured by unknown assailants out of his garage and he was found just over an hour later lying seriously wounded in front of the local Red Cross offices. He died in hospital a few hours later as a result of a broken skull and fingers and burns and injuries on his stomach and shoulders.
“This cold and calculated assassination of a courageous colleague is yet more evidence of the dangers facing journalists in the frontline of investigative reporting of the criminal underworld,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “More must be done to find the killers and bring them to justice.”
Saldierna was the author of a column in four newspapers - El Imparcial, El Regional, Mercurio and El Cinco - which touched on a range of sensitive issues in the state of Tamaulipas, including corruption, drug-trafficking and organised crime. His death brings the total of media staff killed in 2004 to 78 – only just short of the total casualties for last year.
The IFJ says this case and others mean that concrete efforts must come from the government to provide better protection for the media. In another case, prominent deputy editor Francisco Ortiz who worked for a weekly paper, Zeta, was killed in June and Roberto Mora, a newspaper editor, was stabbed to death in Tamaulipas in March. Both men had also reported on the drugs trade and corruption at the highest official levels.
With this in mind, the IFJ has welcomed the recent identification of six key suspects in the murder of Ortiz by the Office of the General Prosecutor in Mexico. The suspects have been marked as members of a cartel in Tijuana, two of whom have been categorized as the instigators of the crime. The Sub-Prosecutor for Specialized Investigations of Organized Crime has confirmed that Ortiz was killed for his journalistic work, after having published more than 40 photographs of the cartel’s operations and its leader Francisco Javier Arellano Felix, El Tigrillo before his death.
“This is a step forward,” said White. “Mexico and other governments must continue to implement existing legal protection for journalists and media staff and break down the wall of impunity,” said White.
The media safety crisis led last year to the establishment of the International News Safety Institute, an industry-led initiative, which aims to do more to reduce the risks to reporters and news teams, and particularly to freelances who are among the most vulnerable,” said White. “We cannot forget that many of these deaths are local journalists – safety must not be for the chosen few.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries