Violence against journalists surged this week

The developments in the Lydia Cacho case and her revelations yesterday come in a week when violence against journalists surged again. Last year four reporters were murdered and three disappeared, and 2008 is promising to be as equally violent for members of the profession.

Francisco Ortiz Monroy, correspondent for the national daily el Diario de México in Ciudad Camargo, Tamaulipas, was shot dead on Tuesday of this week by gunmen who open ed fire from an SUV. Ortiz Monroy, 48, was gunned down as he was leaving some offices in Ciudad Carmargo.

According to a version reported by the local press, several armed men got out of a car and opened fire on the journalist who ran and took refuge in a nearby house. His assailants then pursued him and shot him dead. Ortiz Monroy’s body was reportedly found on a bed with eight gun shot wounds.

The next day, Bonifacio Cruz Santiago, the publisher of the weekly El Real, and his son, Alfonso Cruz Cruz, its editor were fatally shot outside the town hall of Chimalhuacán, in the central state of Mexico.

“This double killing comes just 48 hours after the murder of a journalist in the northeast of the country,” the press freedom organisation said.

“So far there is no evidence that their deaths were linked to their work as journalists, but these shootings highlight the climate of violence in which the press must operate in Mexico, the most hemisphere’s most dangerous country for the media,” said a statement from Reporters Without Borders.

There’s more.

Octavio Soto Torres, editor of the daily “Voces de Veracruz”, survived a shooting attack in Pánuco, Veracruz, in the east of the country, on 23 January.

Cecilia Vargas Simón, of the daily “La Verdad del Sureste”, had her home broken into and searched in Villahermosa, Tabasco, in south-east Mexico on 27 January.

Militants of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) beat and threatened to kill reporter Edi Darinel López Zacarías on 22 January 2008, according to Mexico’s Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET) in San Miguel de Allende.

Carlos Huerta Muñoz, crime correspondent on the daily “Norte de Ciudad Juárez”, in Chihuahua state, northern Mexico, was forced to flee the country after receiving death threats from a drug cartel. His newspaper’s management decided the day after his departure, on 30 January 2008, to drastically reduce its coverage of drug-trafficking and to stick to official information on the subject.

“Only official information released by government authorities in official communiqués will be published from now on,” the Norte de Ciudad Juárez declared in an editorial on January 31st.

Inter American Press Association President Earl Maucker voiced concern at the increasing policy of self-censorship that is gripping the media in Mexico, and said: “We regret that once again a voice raised against organized crime has been silenced in Mexico, and this is a direct attack on the public’s right to information,”

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