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Owner of radio and television station abducted in Michoacán

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is an IAPA press release:

IAPA calls for urgent probes into murder, abduction of journalists in Mexico

MIAMI, Florida (December 10, 2007) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed outrage and called on the authorities in Mexico to immediately investigate and identify those responsible for the murder of journalist Gerardo Israel García Pimentel and the kidnapping of broadcast station owner Juan Pablo Solís. Both incidents occurred in the central Mexican state of Michoacán.

According to inquiries made by the IAPA's Rapid Response Unit García Pimentel, 24, a reporter for the Michoacán newspaper La Opinión, was shot to death at close range on Saturday (December 8) at around 3:20 p.m. He was riding on a motorcycle in the city of Uruapan when he noticed he was being followed. He pulled up at the local Ruan Hotel, where he lived, and ran to the top floor of the building, which is owned by his wife's family. But hitmen caught up with him and shot him more than 20 times with an AR15 rifle and a 38 mm handgun. A total of 45 bullet shells were later found at the scene. His family called paramedics, but when they arrived he was already dead.

Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, expressed sympathy to García Pimentel's family and colleagues and urged the Michoacán State Attorney's Office and the Mexican Attorney General "to diligently and promptly investigate and bring the masterminds and those who carried out the murder to justice, in order to break the vicious circle of impunity surrounding crimes against journalists."

Marroquín, editor of the newspaper Prensa Libre in Guatemala City, Guatemala, declared that the investigations "must proceed until it is determined what the motives for the killing were and whoever is behind the crime is duly punished."

García Pimentel had worked for four years at La Opinión, the most widely circulated newspaper in Uruapan. He covered mainly agricultural topics, but recently had been assigned to other beats. Executives at the paper voiced concern, calling the murder an attack on society at large.

News reports from Michoacán also uncovered the December 7th abduction of Juan Pablo Solís, the owner of a radio and television station there, by a group of armed men in the city of Tuxpan. His whereabouts remain unknown.

The incidents occurred as Mexico's federal government was conducting what it called Michoacán Joint Operation, a crackdown on organized crime with the aim, among others, of eradicating drug production, setting up anti-drug trafficking highway control points, carrying out searches and arrests, and locating and dismantling points of drug sales. So far this year there have been 335 murders and numerous kidnappings reported in the state.

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