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Two journalists found alive two days after armed ambush

(RSF/IFEX) - Two Mexican journalists who had been missing since an armed ambush on 27 April 2010 on the humanitarian convoy they were accompanying in the southern state of Oaxaca were located on 29 April.

Although two people were killed and at least 15 others were wounded when gunmen fired on the convoy, Ericka Ramírez and David Cilia of the weekly "Contralínea" managed to avoid being hit and fled into the surrounding mountains. Ramírez was weak and dehydrated when found, while Cilia sustained injuries to a foot and one side of his body in the course of their flight.

The Oaxaca state government initially told Reporters Without Borders it had not been notified of any disappearances and "could do nothing." Pressed by "Contralínea", the families of the journalists and several media outlets, and by the impact of a video made by one of the survivors, the state police finally organised an unsuccessful rescue mission on the afternoon of 29 April.

The humanitarian "peace convoy" consisted of human rights activists, several international observers and members of organisations such as the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), Section 22 (a teachers' union) and the Movement for the Unification and Independence Struggle of the Triqui (MULTI).

It was organised with the aim of bringing relief to the embattled village of San Juan Copala and its 700 Triqui indigenous inhabitants, who have been under siege since 17 April because of land conflicts and their demands for autonomy. Surrounded by paramilitaries that support the Oaxaca state government, the village has been deprived of water, electricity, schools and medicine.

Accompanied by four journalists, the caravan set off from the town of Huajuapan de Léon on the morning of 27 April and was ambushed as its approached San Juan Copala. Another journalist initially reported as missing, Roger Valle, the "Noticias de Oaxaca" correspondent in Huajuapan, also survived the ambush.

Several of the organisations that participated in the convoy blamed the attack on Unity for the Social Welfare of the Triqui (UBISORT), a paramilitary group linked to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the party that controls the Oaxaca state government.

When two young Triqui women journalists were murdered on 7 April 2008, Reporters Without Borders was surprised that the then special federal prosecutor for attacks on the media, Octavio Alberto Orellana Wiarco, played down the significance of their deaths and ruled out any connection with their work as community radio journalists.

Meanwhile, authorities confirmed that they found the remains of a journalist missing since 2007.

The State Attorney-General's Office (PGJE) of the southeastern state of Tabasco has confirmed in a report that the human remains believed to be those of journalist Rodolfo Rincón Taracena of the "Tabasco Hoy" daily are indeed his. Rincón disappeared in Villahermosa, the state capital, on 20 January 2007.

Detained suspects have reportedly confessed to kidnapping and murdering Rincón on the orders of members of Los Zetas, a paramilitary group involved in racketeering and drug-trafficking. According to the suspects, they wanted him killed because of articles he had written for the newspaper.

The "Tabasco Hoy" staff nonetheless continues to question the findings of the police investigation.

Five or possibly six journalists have been murdered in Mexico since the start of 2010 and a total of 62 have been murdered since 2000. Mexico and Honduras currently rank as the western hemisphere's two most dangerous countries for the media.

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