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Mexican journalist found dead, local mayor named as mastermind

State Prosecutor Luis Ángel Bravo Contreras (3rd from left) makes a request for the Veracruz state congress to investigate Medellin de Bravo mayor, Omar Cruz Reyes
State Prosecutor Luis Ángel Bravo Contreras (3rd from left) makes a request for the Veracruz state congress to investigate Medellin de Bravo mayor, Omar Cruz Reyes

Jan Xahuentitla

Mexican journalist Moisés Sánchez Cerezo was kidnapped by armed men from his home in Medellín de Bravo in Veracruz state, on 2 January 2015. According to a report from the International Press Institute (IPI), Sánchez was reportedly threatened just days before his disappearance and had received threats from the Medellin de Bravo mayor, Omar Cruz, over the previous year.

On 24 January his body was found, beheaded, on the outskirts of Medellín de Bravo. Criticism of the investigation reflects the widespread corruption and general distrust of authorities in Mexico, a country ranked 7th in the world for impunity in the Committee to Protect Journalists' latest impunity index. Sánchez's son, Jorge, refused to believe that it was his father's body that was found and asked for DNA tests to be done. On 27 January, the state attorney general's office said DNA results showed the victim was Sánchez. Jorge told the Committee to Protect Journalists that he would wait for the federal attorney general's DNA results, saying, "We don't trust the local authorities here.”

The body was found after former police officer Clemente Noé Rodríguez Martínez, arrested in connection with Sánchez's disappearance, confessed to playing a part in the journalist's murder. Rodríguez Martínez, who also works as a driver for Mayor Cruz, said that the mayor had ordered the murder. As an elected official, Cruz cannot be prosecuted, according to a measure called a fuero that has its roots in the constitution and is meant to prevent politically motivated judicial harassment of elected politicians. Veracruz state prosecutor Luis Angel Bravo said he would ask the state legislature to strip the mayor of his immunity.

Over the last week, numerous IFEX members have reacted to the news.

ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America:

"Unfortunately, the justice system in Mexico bases its charges solely on confessions and testimony, and not on qualified and documented evidence," said ARTICLE 19.

Committee to Protect Journalists:

"'In a state with a deplorable record of violence against the press, and given allegations of local political and police involvement, it is doubtful that local authorities can be trusted to achieve justice for the murder of José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo,' said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas, from New York. 'Federal authorities have the power to take jurisdiction of this case. They should do so immediately.'"

Inter American Press Association:

"The violence and the risks that journalists are exposed to in Mexico have claimed another victim," said Claudio Paulillo, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

International Press Institute:

"We urge authorities to take all steps available to bring his killers to justice and to end the scourge of impunity that has lain so heavily on Mexico in recent years," said IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis.

PEN International:

"The recent discovery of the body of newspaper editor José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo shows yet again the need for federal and state authorities to carry out swift and thorough investigations into all murders of journalists in Mexico, and to bring perpetrators to justice," PEN International said.

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