Yet another Mexican reporter was murdered in Veracruz this week, the 12th journalist to have been killed in the eastern state in the last five years.
After being abducted as he was driving home last Saturday, Armando Saldaña Morales, a 52-year-old reporter for a local radio station called La Ke Buena, was found dead in the town of Morelos on Monday. His body reportedly showed signs of torture and four bullet wounds.
The motive for Saldaña’s murder was not immediately clear but he had recently reported on corruption and organized crime, including the assassination of a former police chief and the theft of oil from state-owned pipelines in the region.
The killing of Saldaña, who had covered the region for 25 years for numerous local media outlets, came just four months after the death of Moisés Sánchez, the last journalist to have been killed in Veracruz.
Twelve reporters have now been murdered in this Mexican Gulf state since Governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) took office in December 2010.
Pervasive violence against the press
Press freedom organization Article 19 noted that Saldaña was the 17th journalist to be killed in Veracruz and described his death as “further evidence of the inability of the Mexican government to guarantee journalistic freedom.”
According to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), 97 journalists have been killed as a result of their work since 2010, while a further 22 have disappeared and 433 have formally denounced threats against them.
On average, a journalist has been attacked every 26 hours since Peña Nieto, also of the PRI, assumed office in December 2012, Article 19 reported in March.
While drug cartels are often assumed to be behind much of the violence against journalists in Mexico, studies indicate that public officials are actually responsible for the majority of aggressions.
Of 326 attacks against journalists last year, 156 were allegedly committed by public officials, 86 by unknown assailants, 56 by lone individuals, 11 by labor unions and just eight by organized crime, Article 19 found.
President’s words ring hollow
Given the number of attacks against the press and the recent silencing of the influential radio show host Carmen Aristegui, it was somewhat strange to see Peña Nieto celebrate World Press Freedom Day and voice his “appreciation for journalists” on May 3.
“The federal government recognizes the importance of the freedom of press and works to ensure the full exercise of this right,” Peña Nieto wrote on Twitter.
The president’s words came just three days after another serious crime against a Mexican journalist went effectively unpunished.
On April 30, a judge in Guanajuato ordered the release of two men found guilty of savagely beating reporter Karla Silva last September, in an attack thought to have been ordered by a local police chief.
The culprits were ordered to pay a fine of just 2,550 pesos ($166) and undergo community service for the assault that left Silva bloodied and bruised at the desk of her newspaper office.
Despite Peña Nieto’s apparent concern, many Mexican journalists continue to find that there is no such thing as freedom of the press in their country.