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Rights groups pressure Mexico to protect Veracruz journalists, end impunity

At a 29 April 2012 protest in Veracruz, journalists show photographs of colleagues murdered in Mexico in the last few years whose cases have yet to be solved
At a 29 April 2012 protest in Veracruz, journalists show photographs of colleagues murdered in Mexico in the last few years whose cases have yet to be solved

Luis Ramon Barron Tinajero/DEMOTIX

Reporter Victor Manuel Baez Chino spent the past 30 years covering the crime beat in Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz, most recently for the local edition of the national newspaper "Milenio" as well as for a news website called Police Reporters.

But that came to an end last week as he became the ninth journalist killed since the Governor of Veracruz Javier Duarte took office in December 2010, says ARTICLE 19, noting that not one of the nine cases has been solved.

The state is a battleground for two organised crime cartels, the Zetas and the Sinaloa, and journalists say there is widespread corruption in local government, says the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Baez Chino was reported to have been kidnapped by three armed men and forced into a truck outside the offices of the website in Xalapa as he left work on 13 June, say the IFEX members, quoting state reports. His body was found dumped on a street in the city early the next day.

Authorities said a note was attached to Baez Chino's corpse signed by the Zetas.

"This is what happens to those who betray us and be clever, Sincerely the Zetas," the letter reportedly said.

Not even two months have passed since the federal government committed to open all lines of investigation to solve the killing of investigative journalist Regina Martínez in April; since then, another four journalists have been killed in Veracruz, says ARTICLE 19.

About 25 international rights groups, as well as more than 50 journalists and news media outlets including Mexico-based IFEX members Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (CENCOS) and ARTICLE 19, signed a petition urging state authorities of Veracruz, as well as the Mexican federal government, to protect the safety of journalists and to solve the killings of Veracruz reporters.

"As a consequence of the threats, more than half-a-dozen journalists had to flee - one such journalist requested asylum from the United States - owing to the absence of guarantees for the safety of their lives and the exercise of freedom of expression," stated the petition.

Earlier this month, Mexico passed landmark legislation that makes attacks on the press a federal offence in Mexico, which CPJ called "a first step to stop impunity in the killings of Mexican journalists."

Veracruz itself announced that it is creating a state commission to protect journalists, but the signatories said they "cannot wait for the commission to be operational" and urged the state to guarantee journalists' safety.

The signatories said that authorities have not acted in a timely or effective manner to save the lives of journalists who received death threats. They also said that any investigations that did happen "did not produce any conclusive results, which has led to the repeating of these types of crimes and the defenselessness of the victims."

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    Víctor Manuel Báez Chino was the editor of the crime section for the state digital edition of the national newspaper Milenio and an editor of the website Reporteros Policiacos, which also covers crime.

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