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A newspaper reporter who covered agriculture and occasionally crime in the central state of Michoacán, Mexico was shot dead last weekend, report the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (Centro de Periodismo y Etica Publica, CEPET), the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

Gerardo Israel García Pimentel, who wrote for the daily "La Opinion de Michoacán", was found dead in the parking lot of the hotel in which he lived in Uruapan, the second largest city in Michoacán. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), two gunmen shot him at close range at least 20 times on 8 December.

RSF says a brother and a cousin of his are reportedly missing.

Colleagues say they weren't aware of any motives for the murder. Reporters at other newspapers in the state told CPJ that García was considered a low-key reporter, not likely to aggressively pursue sensitive stories or those related to organised crime.

Although the motive is still unknown, "the way García Pimentel was apparently pursued before he was killed suggests he was personally targeted," RSF says. According to CEPET, the investigation will be handled by the federal authorities.

IAPA also reports that Juan Pablo Solís, the owner of a local radio and television station, was abducted on 7 December by a group of armed men in the city of Tuxpan, Michoacán. His whereabouts remain unknown.

According to the press freedom groups, Michoacán is one of the Mexican states hardest hit by violence because of its powerful drug cartels. IAPA says the Mexican government has been trying to crack down on drug cartels in the area by setting up highway control points, carrying out searches and arrests, and locating and dismantling points of drug production and sales. But this year alone, there have been 335 murders and numerous kidnappings reported in the state, according to IAPA.

Earlier this month in Michoacán, two police chiefs were killed, along with Sergio Gómez, the lead singer of the nationally known musical group K-Paz de la Sierra. According to "A New Front in Mexico," a CPJ report released in November, journalists have died, gone missing or suffered beatings in the state for covering drug trafficking or violence linked to it.

Visit these links:
- CPJ:
- CPJ, "A New Front in Mexico":
- RSF:
(11 December 2007)

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