Photographer gunned down in Sinaloa

New York, December 1, 2004—A newspaper photographer was gunned down Sunday in front of his family in a cafeteria in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, home to some of Mexico’s top drug traffickers. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating the slaying to determine whether it was connected to his journalistic work.

Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández, 35, worked for the Mazatlán edition of the newspaper El Debate. Armed men approached a table in the cafeteria in the town of Escuinapa where he was eating with his wife and sons, 3 and 6, and opened fire, according to The Associated Press and local news reports. He was shot at least five times, news reports said. No arrests have been made.

El Debate Editor Laura Bejar told the AP that Rodriguez took police, sports and community pictures for the newspaper. Bejar said he often shot photographs dealing with drug trafficking, but his work should not have endangered his life.

Yovana Gaxiola Aldana, a reporter for El Debate and correspondent for the Mexico City daily El Universal, told CPJ that El Debate published a story last week about a fight between a local doctor and two reputed drug traffickers he refused to treat. As journalists speculate about the motive for the killing, some have questioned whether that report could have sparked a reprisal, said Gaxiola, who described herself as a friend of Rodríguez.

Sinaloa State Attorney General Oscar Fidel González Mendivil said he had assigned more than 10 agents to investigate the slaying. In response to a request from El Debate, correspondents for the paper in Escuinapa will receive protection, González Mendivil said.