All the police officers of a city in Mexico have been taken in for questioning over the disappearance of yet another journalist in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, considered the most dangerous place in the country for reporters.
According to the state government, the police of Medellin de Bravo — more than three dozen officers — were held on Monday after unidentified armed men kidnapped journalist Moises Sanchez Cerezo, known as critical of the local and state government, from his home on Friday. Nine assailants traveling in three vehicles raided Sánchez's home, taking him, along with a computer, camera, and cell phone.
Sanchez had worked as a part-time journalist and photojournalist, funding his small weekly publication La Union with wages he earned as a taxi driver. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Sanchez sometimes operated as a source for other local journalists in Veracruz.
The reporter had received multiple threats over the last year from the mayor of Medellin de Bravo, Omar Cruz, and other unidentified men, and recently had some of his equipment stolen, according to the Inter-American Press Association.
Cruz has denied the accusations.
Mexico's special prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression has registered 102 murdered journalists from January 2000 to June 2014. It is unclear how many of these cases have remained unsolved or unpunished.
Governor Javier Duarte initially attempted to minimize Sanchez's journalistic work, pointing out he was also a cab driver and "a neighborhood activist."
Claudio Paolillo, IAPA chairman, said that Sánchez's disappearance is a poor sign for journalistic freedom in Mexico. "We are concerned that the year has begun with indications that acts of violence against journalists are going to continue," Paolillo said in a statement.
The CPJ's 2014 Global Impunity Index ranked Mexico seventh among countries where journalists' murders are likely to remain unsolved. Mexico ranked first in the Western Hemisphere, reflecting data covering 2013.
The number of journalist killings in Mexico vary because of different methods to identify such cases, but Mexico's special prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression has registered 102 murdered journalists from January 2000 to June 2014. It is unclear how many of these cases have remained unsolved or unpunished.
The year started with other violent attacks against reporters, although it was not immediately clear if the incidents were linked to the journalists' work.
A local television reporter, Jesus Tapia, was discovered stabbed to death on Monday at his home in the state of Coahuila. He is the second journalist to be confirmed murdered in Mexico this year, after the bodies of former Televisa reporter Jazmin Martinez and her husband were found on Friday in the state of Nayarit.
Press-rights group Article 19 in 2012 called Veracruz the most dangerous state in Mexico to practice journalism. Ten have been murdered since Duarte took office in 2010, and at least five more have gone missing in this period.
Several of the Veracruz cases sparked national outrage. In April 2012, Proceso correspondent Regina Martinez was found strangled to death in her home, leading to demonstrations against her killing in Mexico City and elsewhere.
In August 2014, a reporter for a Veracruz newspaper, Octavio Rojas Hernandez, was shot dead in front of his home, in the neighboring state of Oaxaca, after reporting on a police chief's ties to organized crime.
Last February, freelance journalist Gregorio "Goyo" Jimenez de la Cruz was murdered after hit men were allegedly paid the insignificant sum of 20,000 pesos (roughly $1,500) to execute him. At the time, the state government brushed off his murder as a "crime of passion" linked to one of his daughters.
"Moisés Sánchez Cerezo had denounced a series of criminal acts in the city of Medellin de Bravo and its surroundings, making him an uncomfortable journalist for the mayor of said municipality," Mexico's National Human Rights Commission said in a statement released Sunday.
Follow Andrea Noel on Twitter @MetabolizedJunk.