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Missing Mexican journalist found dead in Veracruz

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Mexican journalists speak in a news conference, protesting the abduction and murder of journalist Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz. (Reuters/Edgard Garrido)

New York, February 12, 2014--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Mexican authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the murder of Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz and hold the perpetrators to account. Jiménez was abducted on February 5 and his body was found buried along with two other people in the municipality of Las Choapas in Veracruz state on Tuesday, according to news reports.

Armed men intercepted Jiménez at his home in the town of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, after the journalist had dropped his children off at school, news reports said. Jiménez covered crime and security for the newspapers Notisur and Liberal del Sur and had recently reported on local abductions and violence toward migrants, according to local journalists.

Shortly after discovering Jiménez's body, Veracruz authorities announced they had five suspects in custody and were searching for several more. One of the detained suspects they identified as Teresa de Jesús Hernández Cruz, the owner of a local bar and a neighbor of Jiménez, who they said had ordered the crime for 20,000 pesos (US$1,500) because of a personal dispute, according to news reports.

Local journalists told CPJ that they were disturbed by how quickly local authorities had moved to rule out any journalism-related motive in the case. Sandra Segura, a journalist with the local daily Notiver, along with another journalist who asked to remain anonymous, cast doubt on the official version of the crime. Segura told CPJ that as part of his recent investigation into violence against migrants, Jiménez had written an article about the kidnapping of two migrants at a local bar. News reports conflicted as to whether the bar mentioned in the story was the same one owned by Hernández.

Segura also questioned the plausibility of Hernández having hired so many people to participate in the crime and the relatively small amount of money allegedly involved.

Cristina Hernández, the journalist's wife, told the daily Milenio that she believed the bar owner had ordered the murder in retaliation for an article Jiménez had published about a stabbing that occurred near her bar and because of a personal dispute between their daughters.

The Veracruz state chief of staff, Erick Lagos, told the daily Milenio the murder was a matter of personal revenge and had no link to Jiménez's journalism. State spokeswoman Gina Domínguez backtracked and told reporters today that the authorities had not ruled out any possible motive and that they continued to investigate, but that they were principally looking into the theory of a personal dispute.

Veracruz is one of the most dangerous states in Mexico for the press, according to CPJ research. Since 2011, at least two journalists have been killed in Veracruz in relation to their work, according to CPJ research. CPJ is investigating the deaths of at least six others in unclear circumstances. At least three journalists have disappeared in the state in the same time period. In 2013, CPJ documented serious irregularities in the case against a man convicted in the 2012 murder of Proceso magazine's Veracruz correspondent, Regina Martínez Pérez.

"While we welcome any progress in the investigation of Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz's murder, it is worrisome that authorities so quickly dismissed the possibility of a link to his work," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "To break the vicious cycle of impunity in Veracruz, it is essential that authorities fully investigate this crime, examine all possible motives, and bring those responsible to justice."

Drug-related violence makes Mexico one of the world's most dangerous countries for the press, according to CPJ research. The country was ranked seventh on CPJ's 2013 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free.

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