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Journalist kidnapped, assassinated in Saltillo

(ARTICLE 19/CENCOS/IFEX) - Valentín Valdés Espinosa, a reporter for the "Zócalo Saltillo" newspaper, was found dead on 8 January 2010 in the city of Saltillo, Coahuila state, northern Mexico. Valdés Espinosa was kidnapped by a group of unidentified individuals as he was traveling in a vehicle along with two of his colleagues at about 11:00 p.m. on 7 January. Valdés Espinosa and one his colleagues were forced to get out of their vehicle and into the vehicle being driven by their captors. Approximately one hour later, Valdés Espinosa's colleague, whose name is not being revealed for security reasons, was released after having been severely beaten. Valdés Espinosa's body was subsequently found at about 2:00 a.m. on 8 January.

The Coahuila State Attorney General's Office has begun a preliminary investigation into the assassination and is expected to hold a press conference to provide information about advances in the case. Sources consulted by ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS, however, have said that journalists in the state are very alarmed and many have decided not to attend the press conference for fear of reprisals if they cover the case.

Valdés Espinosa worked as a reporter for "Zócalo Saltillo" since its inception in 2008. The newspaper belongs to a print media conglomerate in the state. Similar to many print media outlets in the region, it has received threats and been the target of attacks in the past. Another journalist in the region, Rafael Ortiz Martínez, a reporter for the "Zócalo Monclava" newspaper, disappeared on 8 June 2006.

In the last week of 2009, a journalist was also assassinated in the southern state of Quintana Roo and another disappeared in Sinaloa state. The beginning of 2010 has been marked by a spiral of violence and impunity which continues to threaten those who exercise the right to freedom of expression in Mexico.

ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS express their condolences to Valdés Espinosa's family and the "Zócalo Saltillo" team, as well as the rest of the journalism community.

ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS also call on the Mexican government to ensure that freedom of expression is respected and to provide the necessary security measures for those who exercise this right.

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