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Newspaper editor abducted by heavily armed group in Sonora state

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has called for a rapid response from the federal authorities to the abduction, on the night of 16 April 2007, of Saúl Martínez Ortega, the editor of the "Diario de Agua Prieta" newspaper, in Agua Prieta, in the northwestern state of Sonora. He is the second newspaper journalist to disappear in suspicious circumstances in Mexico in 2007, following "Tabasco Hoy" reporter Rodolfo Rincón Taracena in the southeastern state of Tabasco in January (see IFEX alerts of 31 and 29 January 2007).

"An anti-drug offensive by the federal authorities is triggering violent reprisals from the traffickers," RSF said. "Journalists are more exposed than ever to this kind of violence and we fear a sharp decline in press freedom in certain states. The fight against organised crime must be accompanied by a fight against the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for violence against the press. It is up to the federal authorities to carry out investigations, including investigations into the state and municipal governments."

A group of men armed with large-calibre guns kidnapped Martínez Ortega outside the municipal security office in Agua Prieta. The local press said he initially tried to escape in his own car but was overtaken by two pickup trucks. Several bullets were later found in his abandoned car.

Martínez Ortega had been in close contact with Luis Ángel Borboa Canchola, a former Agua Prieta municipal police officer who was abducted in similar circumstances on 13 March. Investigators have not yet established a motive for Martínez Ortega's abduction but they do not rule out the possibility that it was the work of organised crime.

His abduction comes 10 days after the murder of Televisa correspondent Amado Ramírez in the southern city of Acapulco (see alerts of 12 and 10 April 2007).

Both Ramírez's murder and Martínez Ortega's abduction have come at a time of major operations against drug trafficking. On the day of Martínez Ortega's abduction, the federal authorities arrested 100 policemen suspected of corruption and working with organised crime. Similar allegations have been made against aides of the governor of Sonora.

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