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Journalists take to the streets demanding protection after recent kidnappings

The abduction of four Mexican journalists in Durango State illuminates how local governments are corrupted by organised crime as well as the dangers for journalists attempting to work under the control of drug traffickers, report the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET), the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and other IFEX members. This case sparked an unprecedented show of solidarity and outrage against the kidnapping and killing of journalists. Journalists from all over the country and local and international IFEX members joined forces in protests attended by thousands over the weekend, demanding the right to inform, the right to know.

The four journalists were abducted by members of crime groups on 26 July in the Laguna region, which has been riddled with violence between the Los Zetas paramilitary group and the Sinaloa cartel. The abductors demanded press coverage of videos they made in exchange for the reporters' release.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says that networks broadcast three videos in which kidnappers accused the police in the states of Durango and Coahuila of colluding with Los Zetas.

The kidnapping took place hours after the journalists had covered a demonstration against the dismissal of a prison governor who allegedly allowed prisoners to leave the prison. Mexican authorities have linked inmates to the massacre of 17 people at a party in Torreon city last week, reports the International Press Institute (IPI).

After being held for six days, the four journalists were released in Gómez Palacio. Héctor Gordoa Márquez, a cameraman for Televisa, was released on July 29. Cameramen Javier Canales Fernández of Multimedios and Alejandro Hernández Pacheco of Televisa were found on 31 July in a house. Oscar Solís Gurrola, a reporter for the local newspaper "El Vespertino", was freed last week. Police arrested three members of the feared Sinaloa cartel on 4 August for their involvement in the kidnappings.

The recent kidnappings prompted unprecedented protests countrywide. Hundreds of journalists from all over Mexico came to Mexico City for demonstrations on 7 August. Protests also took place in states where drug traffickers have killed more than 30,000 people since December 2006. Journalists called for guarantees for their safety and effective measures to fight impunity. One journalist said, "Mexican journalists have given up the word because the word is at risk."

Media owners kept their distance from the demonstrations, but journalists from numerous media outlets were present. Representatives of IFEX members ARTICLE 19, RSF, CEPET and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) also attended. The march culminated in a pause at the doors of the Interior Ministry to present a banner carrying the names of fallen journalists. Local police estimated that 200,000 participated.

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