Photographer gunned down outside his home

New York, March 10, 2006—Mexican photographer Jaime Arturo Olvera Bravo was shot to death Thursday outside his home in La Piedad in the central state of Michoacán. The special prosecutor for crimes against journalists has opened a preliminary inquiry and will work with state authorities to establish if the murder was related to Olvera’s work. CPJ is also investigating the slaying.

Olvera, a freelance photographer and former correspondent for the Morelia-based daily La Voz de Michoacán, left his home around 8 p.m. with his 5-year-old son. While they were waiting at a bus stop, an unknown assailant approached Olvera and fired at close range, according to local press reports. A bullet struck Olvera in the neck, and he died at the scene. His son was unharmed.

Olvera worked for La Voz de Michoacán until April 2002 when he resigned to become a salesman for a processed meat company, the paper reported. But Olvera continued working as a freelancer, providing photographs and crime tips to local media, the Mexico City-based El Universal said.

The special prosecutor, a new office charged with investigating crimes against the press, has assigned the preliminary investigation to its delegate in Michoacán, a spokesman told CPJ today. The office, headed by David Vega, would formally take the case if it finds evidence that Olvera’s murder was related to his journalism.

President Vicente Fox appointed Vega, a well-known lawyer and human rights advocate, on February 22 in response to a wave of drug-related violence against the press. The Mexican president had agreed to take the step after meeting with CPJ officials in New York last year.

Four Mexican journalists have been killed in direct reprisal for their work in the last five years, CPJ research shows. The organization is investigating the slayings of five other journalists, whose murders may also be related to their work. Another reporter—Alfredo Jiménez Mota of the Hermosillo daily El Imparcial—has been missing since April 2, 2005, and is feared dead.

In two reports issued last month, CPJ outlined the scope of the violence and its damaging effects on the free flow of information. Research shows that violent reprisals against Mexican journalists have led to pervasive self-censorship. Read CPJ’s analysis.

Also last month, CPJ examined the effects of rampant violence on one city’s press corps in the special report, “Dread on the Border.” Following a series of interviews with reporters in the crime-ridden city of Nuevo Laredo, CPJ reported that attacks and intimidation have devastated the local media and essentially halted in-depth coverage of crime, corruption, and drug trafficking. Read CPJ’s report.