Mexican journalists missing after convoy ambushed

New York, April 29, 2010—Two journalists accompanying a caravan of human rights activists in a tense and often violent indigenous area of Oaxaca state in southern Mexico were reported missing Tuesday after the convoy came under gunfire and two people were killed, press reports said. The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Mexican authorities to locate the journalists, bring them back to safety, and conduct a thorough investigation into the attack. 

Érika Ramírez and David Cilia are the two missing reporters from the national newsweekly Contralínea, Zósimo Camacho, a senior editor with the publication, told CPJ. Mexican newspapers identified the slain activists as Beatriz Alberta Cariño Trujillo, a Mexican citizen, and Jyri Jaakola of Finland.

“Mexican authorities must conduct an exhaustive investigation into this attack,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s Americas senior program coordinator. “We urge state and federal authorities to locate the two missing journalists and bring them back to safety.”

Camacho, who went to the nearest town in Oaxaca to help oversee rescue efforts, said he reached the location where the ambush took place and found the SUV in which the two reporters had been riding. It had been hit several times by bullets, he said. Camacho said staff feared the two reporters could have been taken hostage by the gunmen.

In an online report today, Contralínea quoted two activists as saying that they had seen the journalists alive after the ambush and that the two were in hiding. One of the two journalists was reported injured; the activists said the journalists asked to be rescued.

According to press reports, the attack happened near the Triqui Indian mountain zone of San Juan Copala as the convoy was taking supplies and international observers to an area that has declared itself autonomous from the state government. The Associated Press said about 40 people were in the convoy.

The Contralínea reporters were traveling to the area to look into the murders of Felicitas Martínez Sánchez and Teresa Bautista Merino, two Triqui reporters with community radio station “La Voz que Rompe el Silencio” (The voice that breaks the silence), killed in San Juan Copala on April 7, 2008. No one has been brought to justice for their murders.

AP said the convoy included members of an antigovernment movement that seized control of the state capital for several months in 2006. The attack, it said, raised concerns of new conflict between government supporters and opponents.