Veracruz is a hell on earth for Mexican journalists
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Veracruz is a hell on earth for Mexican journalists

The murder of 31-year-old photojournalist Ruben Espinosa has drawn international attention to the dangers that reporters face in Mexico in general, and in the troubled eastern state of Veracruz in particular.

Espinosa, who had fled to Mexico City after receiving threats in Veracruz, the state where he had been covering social movements, was tortured and murdered alongside four women aged 18 to 40 – three of whom were also raped – in an apartment in the capital last Friday.

Murder totals keep rising

Ruben Espinosa was the seventh Mexican journalist to be killed in 2015, meaning on average one reporter has been murdered every month so far this year.

Espinosa was also the 14th journalist who lived or worked in Veracruz to have been killed or disappeared since state governor Javier Duarte of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) took office in December 2010.

Four reporters who worked in the state have now been killed this year alone, including José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo, who was dragged from his home by armed men in January; and Armando Saldaña Morales, who was abducted as he was driving home in May.

The other reporter from Veracruz to be killed this year was Juan Mendoza Delgado, who was found dead on a roadside with his body showing signs of torture on July 2.

The previous day, Duarte had issued a sinister warning to journalists in the state.

“Behave… for your own good,” the governor said in a thinly veiled threat, before accusing many local reporters of having “connections with the underworld.”

Duarte added: “I say it for your best interest, for your families, but also for me and my family, because if something happens to you, then I’m one who gets crucified!”

Murdered activist: Veracruz governor is responsible

Duarte, Mexican investigators and even some members of the press have often been hasty to determine that journalists’ deaths are unrelated to their profession, even when there is strong evidence to the contrary.

Yet in this case, Espinosa had specifically fled to Mexico City – which until now had been considered a safe haven for endangered reports – because of the threats he had received as a result of his work.

Espinosa’s activist friend Nadia Vera, who was tortured, raped and murdered alongside him, had even told an interviewer last November that she would hold Duarte responsible for “anything that could happen” to her.

The brutal murder of Espinosa, Vera and three other women was followed by a fierce assault on a local newspaper in Veracruz last weekend.

Assailants torched three vehicles outside the offices of Presente newspaper in the town of Poza Rica and fired at least 18 bullets into the building’s facade late Sunday night, although there were no injuries reported.

In response to the attack, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission affirmed that the authorities must be more transparent about past cases in order to reduce impunity and curb the escalating violence against the press.

Mexico’s press freedom crisis

Mexico is currently ranked 148th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index, below every other Latin American country except for Cuba.

Depending on the criteria used, anywhere from 50 to over 120 journalists have been killed or disappeared in Mexico since 2006, while in recent months, at least one Mexican journalist has been assaulted every 26 hours, Mexican-American reporter Alfredo Corchado noted this week.

Moreover, about 90 percent of murders of journalists in Mexico since 1992 have gone unpunished, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

This climate of impunity was starkly illustrated this week by the release of three men who savagely beat female reporter Karla Silva at her desk in the central state of Guanajuato last August, while a fourth culprit could soon be freed due to judicial errors.

Why is justice so slow? Why does nothing happen?” Silva asked at a demonstration against the murder of Espinosa this week.

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