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Missing journalist found dead; newspaper bombed

Noel López Olguín
Noel López Olguín

Mexican criminal gangs are using a variety of tactics to pressure the press into not reporting their activities, including murdering critical journalists. A journalist who disappeared in March was found buried in a grave in the state of Veracruz on 1 June, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International. Noel López Olguín was known for criticising local corruption in his articles.

And in a separate attack in the northern state of Coahuila two days earlier, a grenade was thrown at the headquarters of a newspaper that exposed organised crime and corruption, report the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and other IFEX members.

A columnist for the newspaper "La Verdad de Jáltipan", López was kidnapped on 8 March by gunmen in two SUVs. His body was found after an organised crime leader arrested by the Mexican army confessed to killing the journalist.

According to RSF, the journalist had appealed to the public to report abuses by the authorities and organised crime. He had also worked for the weeklies "Noticias de Acayucan" and "Horizonte" in Veracruz. But drug-related violence has fostered a culture of fear in the region, and after he was kidnapped media outlets either denied knowing López or said he had contributed to their publications a long time ago, presumably because they feared reprisals, reports CPJ.

Veracruz is a major transit point for drugs being trafficked to the U.S. and the much-feared paramilitary group Los Zetas is said to be very active around Jáltipan, the town where López Olguín lived and worked.

In Saltillo, Coahuila state on 30 May, a grenade was lobbed at the headquarters of an independent and prestigious newspaper, the "Vanguardia" - the oldest and largest newspaper in the city. No one was injured, but the newspaper did not report the grenade in its print or online editions due to fear of more attacks. The paper has received threats in the past for its reports.

In 2010, more than a dozen news facilities in the country were attacked with either guns or explosives. "In Mexico, organised crime continues to spread terror among members of the media without any consequence. The government of President Felipe Calderón must not tolerate criminal intimidation of the press into silence," said CPJ.

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