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News editor beheaded for condemning drug gangs on social media

At a time when the murderous spree of drug cartels in Mexico seemed it couldn't get any more horrific, the decapitated body of María Elizabeth Macías, news editor of "Primera Hora" was found on 24 September, report the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Adding to the atmosphere of despair, another journalist is missing, according to IAPA and RSF.

The execution occurred in the same Northern Mexico town - Nuevo Laredo - where two young social media were hung just a week earlier. In both cases, notes were attached to the bodies and signed with the letter Z, used to signify the Zetas drug trafficking cartel, IFEX members report.

Under a pseudonym that translates to "The Girl from Nuevo Laredo," Macías exposed the actions of criminal groups and the complicity of local government officials on Twitter and the website "Nuevo Laredo en Vivo." The note attached to her body, which was found on the side of a road, read, "I am here because of my reports and yours."

WAN-IFRA adds that Tamaulipas state, in which Nuevo Laredo is located, is the sight of a brutal turf war between the Zetas and Gulf drug gangs, and beheadings are used to send a message to rivals and informants. The latter are increasingly being tracked by communications experts who work for the gangs by monitoring online activity, according to a Reuters report.

In a letter to President Felipe Calderón, WAN-IFRA wrote, "We respectfully remind you that it is the duty of the state to provide an environment in which citizens are able to exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear of violence."

RSF and IAPA also condemned the seeming unwillingness of Calderón to prevent such horrific murders. Legislation has yet to be implemented after Calderón promised to provide special protections for journalists and netizens and ensure the thorough investigation and just punishment of violent crimes against journalists, RSF reports.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) added to the chorus with a statement expressing "profound concern" about the three recent murders and urging the Mexican government to fulfill its duty to uphold the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression by preventing and investigating crimes against communicators.

Intensifying the alarm, RSF reports that Manuel Gabriel Fonesca Hernández, a crime reporter for several publications in Veracruz state, including "El Mañanero de Acayucan," has been missing since he left to conduct interviews for a story on 19 September.

Macías's execution makes her the seventh journalist to be murdered in Mexico in 2011. According to Reuters, one of the 39-year-old's last posts was, "Keep speaking out."

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