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The same day that Latin American members of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) gathered in Mexico City to discuss how to hold the "poderes paralelos", or "ruling powers", to account for the increase in attacks on the media, a journalist was kidnapped in the northwestern part of the country. He was found murdered a week later, on 23 April, according to Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Saúl Martínez Ortega, who covered crime for the magazine "Interdiario" and wrote for the daily paper "Diaria de Agua Prieta" in Sonora, had been investigating the abduction and murder of one of his sources, a local policeman, when he himself was kidnapped by a group of armed men on 16 April.

Quoting local press accounts, CPJ says that after Martínez was chased in his car late at night, he stopped and called for help, but heavily armed gunmen forced him into their car. Investigators found bullets and 230 grams of a substance used to dilute cocaine in the reporter's abandoned SUV.

Sonora is one of the northern states of Mexico where drug traffickers have repeatedly attacked media and journalists. RSF believes the anti-drug offensive by the federal authorities is "triggering violent reprisals from traffickers."

Assassinated journalists in Latin America are often victims of drug and gang wars, reflecting how problematic organised crime is in the region. IFEX members from the region, with other local and international organisations, met on 16-17 April to assess the increasingly violent effects of illegal armed groups on free expression in their countries and to begin developing an advocacy support strategy for the region.

Members were represented from Colombia (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa - FLIP), Peru (Instituto Prensa y Sociedad - IPYS), Honduras (Probidad) and Guatemala (Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala - CERIGUA). The Centro de Periodismo y Etica Publica (CEPET), an IFEX interim member, represented Mexico. International members the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and ARTICLE 19 were also in attendance.

Those who want more information about the campaign should get in touch with the IFEX Campaigns Programme at: campaigns[at]ifex[dot]org

Visit these links:
- RSF:
- CPJ:
(24 April 2007)

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