Mexican editor threatened

New York, June 10, 2008—The editor of an evening daily in southern Mexico was threatened in a note left outside the front door of the newspaper’s office building on Monday, two days after a severed human head was found near the same spot, according to news reports and a CPJ interview.

Editorial Director Juan Padilla had presided over a series of reports by the newspaper, El Correo de Tabasco, about migrant trafficking and kidnappings in the state of Tabasco. On Saturday— “Free Expression Day” in Mexico—the decapitated head of a man was found near the newspaper’s front door in the state capital, Villahermosa.

Mexican authorities later identified the head as belonging to the corpse of a low-level drug trafficker found in another neighborhood of the city, according to La Jornada. Mexican authorities found a note with the corpse that authorities said was an apparent warning to potential informants: “This is what will happen to those who finger others.”

Two days later another note reading, “You’re next, Director,” was left by the newspaper’s front doors not far from where the severed head had been found, an assistant to Padilla told CPJ today. Tabasco State Attorney General Gustavo Rosario said the latest note was directed at Padilla, The Associated Press said.

“We are alarmed at these gruesome death threats against Juan Padilla and his newspaper,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón pledged just this week to combat violence and harassment of the press. We therefore urge the authorities to investigate these threats and bring those responsible to justice, and ensure the safety of El Correo de Tabasco and its staff.”

Mexico is one of the most dangerous places for journalists in Latin America, CPJ research shows. In the last five years, as the war between powerful drug cartels has intensified, local journalists who report on organized crime and the drug trade are facing grave risks.

CPJ examined three recent unsolved killings of journalists in a special report released on Saturday. Twenty-one journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, seven of them in direct reprisal for their work. Since 2005, seven others have gone missing. Mexico ranks 10th on CPJ’’s Impunity Index, a list of countries where journalists are slain on a recurring basis and governments consistently fail to solve the crimes.