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Crime reporter found dead in Durango

Eliseo Barrón Hernández
Eliseo Barrón Hernández

The body of a journalist who covered the police beat in northern Mexico was found on 26 May, a day after he was abducted from his home, report Centro Nacional de Comunicación (CENCOS), the Center of Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET), the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and other IFEX members.

Authorities found the body of Eliseo Barrón Hernández, a reporter and photographer for the Torreón-based daily "La Opinión", in an irrigation ditch in Gómez Palacio, Durango, where he lived. It appeared that he was shot and tortured.

On Monday night, at least eight hooded gunmen entered Barrón's home, beat the reporter and forced him out of the house and into a white Nissan, his wife told local reporters.

Barrón had covered the police beat for more than 10 years for "La Opinión". According to his paper, in the days prior to his kidnapping, he had reported on a corruption scandal in the Torreón police that had resulted in the firing of more than 300 police officers. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says that he also regularly covered the drug wars in Durango, a major drug trafficking hub.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), local authorities have not made public any leads about their investigation or reasons behind Barrón's abduction and murder. Federal authorities have taken over the case, although it is not clear why the investigation has been transferred.

He was the second journalist to be killed in Durango in less than a month. Carlos Ortega Melo Samper, a reporter with the "Tiempo de Durango" daily, was murdered in Santa María del Oro on 3 May.

According to CPJ, Barrón was among 27 journalists who have been killed since 2000. At least eight have been killed in direct reprisal for their work. Most covered organised crime or government corruption.

IFEX members maintain that local and state authorities in Mexico have been ineffective in solving press-related cases and, in some instances, have been complicit in the crimes. Although President Felipe Calderón has promised to introduce legislation that makes crimes against free expression a federal offence (rather than the state's responsibility), a law has yet to be passed.

"The relentless killing of journalists in Mexico has become a direct threat not only to press freedom but to the viability of the country's institutions," said CPJ. "The legislature must take action to protect the basic rights of Mexican citizens."

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