Abducted crime reporter still missing

New York, April 17, 2007—A Mexican crime reporter who was abducted on Monday by armed men in Agua Prieta, a city on the Arizona border, is missing. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating whether the incident was related to his journalistic work.

Saúl Noé Martínez Ortega, 36, who covers crime for the newspaper Interdiario in Agua Prieta, was driving a black SUV around midnight when another vehicle started a high-speed chase, according to local press reports.

Martínez stopped his SUV at the entrance of the municipal police station and called for help, press reports said. But heavily armed gunmen forced the reporter into their vehicle and drove away from the city center. The reporter has been missing since then, his father Lorenzo Martínez, publisher of the paper, told CPJ.

“We are worried about our colleague Saúl Noé Martínez Ortega,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We urge Mexican authorities to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation, locate Martínez, and bring him to safety.”

State police are investigating the abduction, said José Larrinaga Talamantes a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office in Hermosillo. Investigators found 27 9-mm bullets and 230 grams of a substance used to dilute cocaine in the reporter’s SUV, according to Larrinaga. Martínez’s family told CPJ that that the journalist had purchased this substance to use as an insect and rodent repellant. The spokesman told CPJ that the incident may be related to organized crime. According to Larrinaga, Martínez was a close friend of a police informer who was kidnapped on March 29 and has since disappeared.

According to Lorenzo Martínez, the family-owned newspaper Interdiario, which comes out three times a week, covers general news. He said that his son had been working as a journalist for several years, reporting on crime during night shifts, and that he was investigating the disappearance of a friend who works as an informer for the municipal police. He believes that his son’s abduction may be related to his work on the case.

According to CPJ research, three other Mexican journalists are missing. Rodolfo Rincón Taracena, a crime reporter for the Villahermosa-based daily Tabasco Hoy, has been missing in the southern Tabasco state since January 20.Rafael Ortiz Martínez, a reporter for the Monclova-based daily Zócalo and host of the morning news program “Radio Zócalo” on local radio station XHCCG, disappeared on July 8, 2006. He had reported on the prevalence of prostitution in Monclova, the resulting spread of HIV/AIDS, and its effect on families. Alfredo Jiménez Mota, a crime reporter for the Hermosillo-based El Imparcial, disappeared on April 2, 2005. Jiménez had recently investigated drug-trafficking families in the Mexico’s northern region. Sonora prosecutors have linked his disappearance with his journalistic work. Read more about these cases and those of other journalists missing worldwide.