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Transparency needed in investigation into Mexican photographer's murder

Daniel Alejandro Martínez Bazaldúa, society section photographer for Vanguardia newspaper in Saltillo, Coahuila, was killed on the morning of 24 April 2013. The young photographer, who was 22 years old, was found alongside the body of Julián Alejandro Zamora Gracia, who was 23.

Daniel Alejandro had been working for Vanguardia for only a month. The last time he was seen alive was on the afternoon of 23 April when at 2:48 p.m. he returned to the paper's offices to pick up his next assignment. He never arrived at the event he was scheduled to cover at 6 p.m. that day.

Vanguardia said, in a piece published on 25 April, that “without investigation or evidence, or the taking of witness statements”, officials from the Coahuila Attorney General's office had accused Daniel Alejandro of having had links to organised crime.

This accusation was made public in a press release at 10:30 p.m. on 24 April that read “the bodies were found with messages that make a direct link to the fact that both people had defected from a criminal organisation”.

After the Attorney General's statement, the management of Vanguardia asked the office if there were witness testimonials or any expert evidence to back up their accusations. By the time the paper went to press early on the morning of 24 April, they had not received a reply.

In an interview with ARTICLE 19, Ricardo Mendoza, the editor at Vanguardia, said that all they are asking is that the Coahuila office offers some evidence for the assertions they have made about the case. He said that interpretations of the messages left with the bodies are not enough to solve the murders.

ARTICLE 19 maintains that the statements made by the Coahuila Attorney General are jeopardising the right of access to justice and the related responsibilities of the state to investigate, clarify the facts and punish those responsible. By doing this, the family of Daniel Alejandro becomes further victimised, and the right to honour and reputation of the photographer are damaged by these assertions that call into question his dignity.

Instead of making statements, the local authorities need to be concerned with guaranteeing the impartiality, independence and effectiveness of the investigation, as well as providing the family with information about the investigation.

Since 2000, Coahuila has recorded the murders of two journalists and the disappearance of a third. It is also the state with the most attacks on the media, with 10 cases. One of those attacks took place at the offices of Vanguardia on 29 May 2011.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Coahuila Attorney General to investigate the source of the killings and to support, with evidence, the accusations made in its press statement. Not doing so would violate the fundamental right of every citizen to the presumption of innocence.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Full investigation needed in Mexican journalist's murder

    Photographers covering the society section in Mexico have been targeted by organized crime groups in the past for inadvertently capturing images of cartel members, according to CPJ research.

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