Editor of a provincial paper found dead

New York, November 13, 2006—Misael Tamayo Hernández, editor and owner of the local daily El Despertar de la Costa in the city of Zihuatanejo, was found dead Friday morning in a motel in southern Guerrero state. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating whether Tamayo’s death is related to his work.

Local police commander Mario Cruz Gallardo told CPJ that a security guard at the Venus Motel, near the city of Ixtapa, found Tamayo’s body at 7:30 a.m. and notified local authorities. Cruz declined to answer questions about other aspects of the investigation, including the cause of death.

The editor’s sister, Ruth Tamayo Hernández, said the local coroner told her that a preliminary autopsy found that her brother died from a massive heart attack. In an interview with CPJ, Ruth Tamayo said that she viewed the body and saw what appeared to be three small puncture marks in one arm.

Tamayo left his office at 9 a.m. on Thursday to have breakfast with Reinaldo Ríos de los Santos, manager of a bus company and former commander of the local police, said another sister, Rebeca Tamayo. Both Ruth and Rebecca Tamayo work at the family-run El Despertar de la Costa.

The editor called the office at 10:30 a.m. to give instructions to a reporter looking into a story on water quality in a nearby town. Tamayo didn’t return to work later that day, and he did not answer cell phone calls from colleagues. At 3 a.m. Friday, Tamayo’s family notified authorities that he was missing.

Venus Motel staff said that Tamayo arrived at the hotel at about 1:30 a.m. on Friday, according to local press reports. The car in which Tamayo was believed to have arrived left the Venus two hours before the body was found, El Despertar de la Costa reported.

Tamayo’s family and colleagues said that he was critical of local government corruption and criminal activities. Tamayo’s sisters told CPJ that their brother had received a threatening call from an unidentified individual two months prior to his death, but Tamayo did not take the threat seriously.

Ríos was reported missing today, CPJ sources said. Employees at Rios’ bus company, Estrella Blanca, told CPJ today that they had not heard from him since Thursday.

“We urge local authorities to thoroughly investigate the death of our colleague Misael Tamayo Hernández,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “It’s important that the nature of his death be determined and any links to his professional work be explored.”