(Zócalo de Saltillo)
(Zócalo de Saltillo)

Abducted reporter found dead in Mexico

New York, January 8, 2010—Mexican reporter Valentín Valdés Espinosa was abducted on Thursday and found shot to death early this morning in the city of Saltillo, Coahuila state, in northern Mexico, according to local news reports. Mexican authorities must conduct a thorough investigation into this vicious attack and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Valdés, at left, who covered local news including crimefor the daily Zócalo de Saltillo, finished work at the paper around 11 p.m. and left the office with two colleagues, according to Editor-in-Chief Sergio Cisneros. While they were in a car in downtown Saltillo, a group of men in two SUVs intercepted them. Valdés and a reporter whose name has not been released were forced into one of the SUVs and driven away, Cisneros said.

Coahuila’s attorney general’s office said that Valdés was found dead early this morning in front of the Motel Marbella, according to an official statement. Valdés had been tortured and shot several times, the statement said. The reporter was found with a message that read: “This is going to happen to those who don’t understand. The message is for everyone.” According to the attorney general’s office, the murder was allegedly committed by organized crime.

The national newsweekly magazine Proceso said that the second reporter was later released. But executives at the paper and the attorney general’s office did not confirm this. The newspaper said a third reporter who was with Valdés was not abducted.

In the last three weeks, a newspaper owner was shot to death in Tulum, in the state of Quintana Roo, while a veteran crime reporter has gone missing in the state Sinaloa.   

“The murder of Valentín Valdés Espinosa follows an upsurge in violence against the Mexico media that has cost two lives and one disappearance in a three-week period,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Mexican journalists find themselves terrorized by this wave of lethal violence that is barring them from reporting the news. We urge the authorities to put an end to this vicious cycle by vigorously investigating Valdés’ slaying and by bringing those responsible to justice.”  

In July 2006, another reporter from the same newspaper chain, Rafael Ortiz Martínez, disappeared in the city of Monclova, Coahuila. He has not been found and investigations into his disappearance have produced no leads, according to the state prosecutor’s office.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous places in the world for the press. CPJ research shows that 42 journalists—including Valdés—have been killed in Mexico, at least 18 in direct reprisal for their work, since 1992. Covering crime is especially risky. In many areas, drug cartels routinely threaten journalists unless news coverage is tailored to their liking. In areas where there is war between cartels, journalists are caught between the conflicting demands of opposing traffickers.