Editor of Mexican crime magazine is found murdered

New York, August 10, 2006—The body of Enrique Perea Quintanilla, a longtime police reporter who became editor of a crime magazine, was found on the outskirts of the northern city of Chihuahua on Wednesday afternoon. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating whether Perea’s murder is related to his work.

Perea’s body was found at 2 p.m. on the side of a road about 9 miles (15 kilometers) south of Chihuahua, Eduardo Esparza, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state prosecutor, told CPJ. He was shot once in the head and once in the back with a .45-caliber gun.

Perea was editor of a monthly magazine, Dos Caras, Una Verdad (Two Sides, One Truth), which specialized in reporting on closed murder cases and local drug trafficking. He had worked for 20 years as a police reporter for the dailies El Heraldo and El Diario until becoming the magazine’s editor in 2005, his former colleague and editor at El Heraldo, César Ibarra, told CPJ.

Esparza said the journalist was last seen leaving his office in his car at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, but the car was found abandoned in Chihuahua’s center that night. Perea’s two sons reported the journalist missing.

Esparza said the state prosecutor’s office believes the murder is the work of organized crime. While the motive is not clear yet, he said, Perea’s journalism is one of the investigation’s main leads.

In the July edition of Dos Caras, Una Verdad, Perea published an interview with an unnamed local drug lord, detailing his trafficking operations, Ibarra told CPJ. He said Perea had not mentioned receiving threats.

Four Mexican journalists have been killed in direct reprisal for their work in the last five years, CPJ research shows. CPJ is also investigating the slayings of six other journalists, whose murders may also be related to their work.

In addition, two other reporters remain missing. Alfredo Jiménez Mota of the Hermosillo daily El Imparcial has been missing since April 2, 2005, and is feared dead. Rafael Ortiz Martínez, reporter for the Monclova-based daily Zócalo and host of the local morning news program “Radio Zócalo,” has been missing since July 8.

On February 22, in response to a wave of drug-related violence against journalists, President Vicente Fox appointed David Vega Vera, a well-known lawyer and human rights advocate, as special prosecutor for crimes against the press. The Mexican president agreed to take the step after meeting with CPJ officials in New York last year. The special prosecutor would formally take Perea’s case if he finds evidence that the murder was related to journalism.

“We urge the special prosecutor to mobilize the full powers of his office in order to thoroughly investigate Enrique Perea Quintanilla’s murder,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “It’s imperative to establish whether his death was related to his work as a journalist.”

In two reports issued in February, 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 in February, 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.