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Journalist shot dead in Oaxaca, Mexico

Friends and relatives of journalist Octavio Rojas attend his funeral in Tezonapa, Mexico on 12 August 2014
Friends and relatives of journalist Octavio Rojas attend his funeral in Tezonapa, Mexico on 12 August 2014

AP Photo/Felix Marquez

Octavio Rojas Hernández, a journalist from Oaxaca, was murdered in his home on Monday, 11 August 2014. He was a correspondent for the newspaper El Buen Tono in the town of Cosolapa, Oaxaca, where he also held the post of Press Officer for the town council.

According to a report published by El Buen Tono, the 35-year-old journalist “had arrived home after participating in an event in the community of Palma Sola, Oaxaca, and as he was about to eat, he was interrupted by someone who said he was interested in buying his vehicle”.

The reporter, who worked mainly on police matters, went out of his house to deal with the person who, on seeing him outside, pulled out a weapon and, without saying anything, started firing at him; there were at least four bullet wounds on his body.

The killing of Octavio Rojas occurred a little less than 48 hours after El Buen Tono, which is published in the city of Cordoba, Veracruz, published an article, which was unsigned but datelined Cosalapa, Oaxaca, stating that the State Police had confiscated 16,000 litres of stolen fuel, which had been found in three trucks belonging to the Director of Cosalapa Municipal Police, Fermín Vanegas Fernández.

“Everything indicates that (he was murdered)…because of some articles we had handled a few days earlier in which the Director of the Municipal Police of Cosalapa Town Council was linked to a gang involved in fuel theft”, Miguel Ángel Contreras, Head of News at El Buen Tono, said in an interview with ARTICLE 19.

For Darío Ramírez, Director for the Mexico and Central America Office of ARTICLE 19, “the murder of Octavio Rojas is a sad reminder of the latent risk those of us who practice journalism in Mexico run. His killing must not go unpunished, even though, if previous cases are anything to go by, everything indicates that it will. If we want a free and safe press, the first thing we have to do is combat the most flagrant sign of encouragement to carry out further attacks: impunity”.

Between 1 January 2007 and the first quarter of 2014, ARTICLE 19 has documented at least 139 attacks on the press in Oaxaca, making it third in the list of areas of Mexico that have suffered most attacks on the press over the past seven years (first place goes to the Federal District and the second to Veracruz). The attacks in Oaxaca have included four murders, 75 physical attacks, 27 threats, 13 acts of intimidation and six arbitrary detentions, to mention just a few. In 58 per cent of cases, those allegedly responsible for the attacks are public officials.

Furthermore, in the case of El Buen Tono, the newspaper where Octavio Rojas Hernández worked, since November 2011 it has been the target of a series of attacks and assaults that have jeopardized the safety of its management and contributors, as well as their ability to exercise their profession.

ARTICLE 19 is calling on:

  • the Attorney-General’s Office in Oaxaca to exhaust all possible lines of enquiry in relation to the murder of Octavio Rojas, including that of his professional work, and to ensure the safety of his family.
  • the Mexican State to protect the safety of the management and workers at the Veracruz newspaper El Buen Tono, given the attacks and threats they have suffered in a little less than three years.

We wish to express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Octavio Rojas Hernández and we urge the Attorney-General's Office in Oaxaca not to rule out the possibility that his murder was linked to his profession.

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