Crime photographer shot dead, reporter injured in Mexico

New York, February 17, 2009The Committee to Protect Journalists called today for a thorough investigation into a shooting of two journalists on Friday in Mexico. A gunman killed a photographer and injured a reporter in the southern city of Iguala, Guerrero state, according to international news reports. 

Photographer Jean Paul Ibarra Ramírez, 33, from the newspaper El Correo was shot three times and died at the scene. Reporter Yenny Yuliana Marchán Arroyo, 22, from the daily newspaper Diario 21 was hit three times in the legs and is reportedly in stable condition. CPJ is investigating possible links between the shooting and the journalists’ work.

The two reporters were on their way to cover a car accident at around 10 p.m., the local press reported. According to police, an SUV pulled up alongside their motorcycle and an unidentified man opened fire. The killer got out and shot Ibarra a final time in the head, ignoring Marchán, police told CPJ. Marchán is recovering in a local hospital and protected by a police guard. Police told CPJ that they had no leads.

“We are saddened by the death of Jean Paul Ibarra Ramírez and urge authorities to bring those responsible to justice,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Mexico must put an end to impunity in crimes against the press.”

Police said the weapon used in Friday’s shooting was a .45 caliber pistol, a firearm authorized for exclusive use by the Mexican army. Its use makes the shooting a federal crime and could bring in the federal government’s special prosecutor for crimes against journalists, a source at the attorney general’s office told CPJ.

The Mexican Chamber of Deputies is currently considering legislation that would make crimes against free expression a federal offense, a pledge made by President Felipe Calderón to a CPJ delegation in June. “The time has come for congressional leaders to take swift action and insure that all Mexicans, including journalists, have a better legal framework to protect the basic human right to freedom of expression, ” said Lauría. 

Ibarra loved his job as a crime photographer, local journalists in Iguala told CPJ. Reporters said that Ibarra, like many other journalists in the area, stayed clear of stories about drug trafficking or police corruption to avoid danger. Marchán recently graduated with a degree in communications. Four days a week she writes a public opinion feature and once a week she covers the crime beat for Diario 21.

The regional reporters’ union wrote Guerrero Governor Zeferino Torreblanca asking that authorities move as quickly as possible to investigate the attack. The union said it did not want the “investigations to be twisted” as they said happened in the case of Amado Ramírez, a reporter with Televisa who was killed in April 2007 in Acapulco. A CPJ investigation into that killing raised questions about incompetent police work as well as detectives who seemed too quick to dismiss reprisal for Ramírez’ work as a motive.

According to CPJ’s annual report Attacks on the Press in 2008, Mexico is one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the world. Since 2000, 25 journalists, including Ibarra, have been killed, at least eight in direct reprisal for their work. In addition, seven journalists have disappeared since 2005.