Even after self-censoring, a reporter is murdered in Mexico

The large family of Mexican radio anchorman Juan Martínez Gil gathered around his coffin in the intense tropical heat of Acapulco’s main cemetery on Thursday. His brother Javier, who identified his badly beaten body on Tuesday, was the least consolable. He leaned across the coffin, his tears flowing down his face onto the dark metal. “Juanito, you were always with us. Always at my side. Now you are gone. How can I be with you?” he moaned. 

Juan Martínez was the star of the afternoon newscast on W Radio in Acapulco. A city once known for the American celebrities it attracted, Acapulco is now one of Mexico’s drug cartel centers. Martínez’s murder was so brutal–he was apparently snatched off the street, terribly beaten, taped around his head and face, and partially buried–that it seemed to have been a message.

The immediate suspicion in Mexico when a journalist is killed is that drug traffickers are behind it. But Martínez stayed clear of reporting anything that might anger drug cartels, his boss told CPJ, or anything that touched on the police or army, which are also dangerous topics.

Journalists impose self-censorship to keep themselves alive. The reporters at Martínez’s funeral wondered what could have done and, more than that, what the government is going to do now to investigate the crime. Journalists in Acapulco don’t trust the government to do an honest job. They assume police or someone in power is involved.

No proof of that has emerged. In fact, there were many government officials who came to Martínez’s wake–state political leaders, state governmental officials. The governor proclaimed he lamented the death and instructed the state prosecutor to proceed with all his powers in the investigation. The state prosecutor said, judging from the wounds, the murder could have been committed by paid killers hired by individuals or by members of organized crime. And that the investigation could take a long time.

Mike O’Connor is CPJ’s representative in Mexico.