October 30, 2006
Daniel F. Cabeza de Vaca Hernández
Avenida Paseo de la Reforma #211-213
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Delegación Cuauhtémoc.
México D.F., C.P. 06500
Via facsímile: 52-55-5346-0901
Dear Mr. Cabeza de Vaca:
The Committee to Protect Journalists is shocked and outraged by the shooting death of U.S. journalist Bradley Roland Will in Oaxaca, and calls upon the federal authorities in Mexico to fully investigate this killing and bring those responsible to justice.
Will, 36, an independent documentary filmmaker and reporter for the news Web site Indymedia, was shot at 5:30 p.m. on October 27, while covering clashes between activists of the antigovernment group Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), and armed assailants in the municipality of Santa Lucía del Camino, in southern Oaxaca state.
Oswaldo Ramírez, a photographer for the Mexico City-based daily Milenio who was with Will and other Mexican journalists, told CPJ that armed men fired at the journalists. Will was hit in the neck and abdomen.
Will had been covering the conflict in Oaxaca for at least six weeks. He had interviewed witnesses and activists, and shot footage of protests for a documentary on the conflict, local human rights group, Red Oaxaqueña de Derechos Humanos, said in a statement.
The conflict in the colonial city started May 22, when a strike by the local teachers’ union over pay sparked a wave of antigovernment protests. After Oaxaca governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz ordered police to disperse protesters with tear gas on June 14, leftist, indigenous and student groups joined the protests, which became violent. APPO protesters had been calling for the ouster of governor Ruiz since the confrontation began. Several journalists covering the unrest have been beaten and harassed by protesters, and police and officials in civilian clothes, CPJ research shows.
At a news conference yesterday, Oaxaca’s mayor Manuel Martínez told reporters that four public officials, including two policemen, and a former official had been detained in connection with Will’s killing. According to the Mexican press, photographs and video footage of the incident helped local authorities identify the suspects. Following orders by President Vicente Fox, heavily armed federal forces moved into Oaxaca and dismantled most of the barricades erected by protesters in the city center.
As an independent organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, we are alarmed that four current and one former local officials have been identified as suspects in the shooting. For this reason we believe that the investigation should be conducted at a federal level.
We are heartened by a statement today to CPJ from the office of special prosecutor David Vega Vera that its staff had begun gathering information in Oaxaca about the shooting.
Vega Vera, a well-known lawyer and human rights advocate, was named on February 22 this year by President Vicente Fox as special prosecutor for crimes against the press in response to a wave of drug-related violence against journalists. The Mexican president agreed to take the step after meeting with CPJ officials in New York last year. The office of the special prosecutor investigates only cases where there is evidence that the crime is related to journalism. During the eight months since Vega Vera’s appointment, his office has received about 70 complaints, which range from threats, to kidnapping and murder.
We urge you to use the full authority of your office to assist special prosecutor Vega Vera, to ensure that our colleague’s death is thoroughly investigated, and all those responsible are brought to justice.