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No place for free expression: 17 journalists killed in Veracruz, Mexico since 2000

This is a translation of a statement originally published on articulo19.org on 6 May 2015.

On 4 May, the lifeless body of journalist Armando Saldaña Morales was found in Cosolapa, Oaxaca, a city on the border with the state of Veracruz. The journalist worked as a news reporter for the Ke Buena 100.9 FM radio station in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz. His death is yet another example of the inability of the Mexican government to guarantee the safe practice of journalism in the country.

Saldaña's body showed signs of torture and had been shot several times. His press accreditation, credentials revealing his address in Tezonapa, and his vehicle were also found.

According to ARTICLE 19's sources, the last thing his family knew about him before he went missing was that he had been going to Acatlán de Pérez Figueroa in Oaxaca on Sunday, 3 May. His family was given the news of his death on Monday, 4 May.

The same sources said that Saldaña had covered the border zone between Oaxaca and Veracruz for 25 years, reporting mainly on political issues and conflicts between sugar-cane plantation owners and farmers in the region. In addition to working for Ke Buena 100.9 FM, he was also a correspondent for La Máquina Tropical 97.7 FM in Xalapa, Veracruz. He also worked with Radio Max and XEFU Radio, and the El Mundo and El Sol papers in Córdoba.

In an interview with people from Ke Buena 100.9 FM, ARTICLE 19 was told that Saldaña's work was ethical and that he was always well-received by the people he was interviewing, who were often local leaders and mayors.

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec zone and the Veracruz border have become some of the most dangerous regions for journalists in the country. On 11 August 2014, Octavio Rojas Hernández, a correspondent for El Buen Tono in Veracruz, was killed. His body, like that of Saldaña, was shot in Cosolapa, Oaxaca. Both had covered political issues in the region and were found dead in the same city.

In the report Estado de Censura, ARTICLE 19 highlighted Veracruz and Oaxaca as the most dangerous places in Mexico to be a journalist. Since 2000, 17 journalists have been killed in Veracruz and seven in Oaxaca. During the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, already 12 journalists have been killed.

According to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, it is the duty of these states to prevent and investigate these crimes, punish those responsible and ensure reparations for victims. With the murder of Saldaña, it is clear that free expression and the effective development of the democratic process have been limited.

Official sources say that the state's Attorney General in Oaxaca has started investigations and sent its agents to the scene of the crime. Saldaña's body was removed for an autopsy and later returned to his family.

ARTICLE 19 demands that the connection between Saldaña's work and his murder be investigated. The Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) should take over the case to ensure that the necessary investigations are carried out in both states.

ARTICLE 19 has been in contact with Saldaña's family, who said they have not been in touch with any institutions dedicated to the protection of victims. ARTICLE 19 calls on the three levels of government to supply security and safety measures for the journalist's family and to allow them to participate in the investigation.

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