Four Mexican journalists held hostage in Durango

New York, July 28, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists called on the Mexican government today to do everything in its power to bring four journalists who are being held hostage by an alleged criminal group to safety. The group’s members have demanded press coverage of videos they made in exchange for the reporters’ release, according to international and local news reports.

The four were abducted on Monday in the Laguna region, which includes Durango and areas of the neighboring state of Coahuila. The region has been wracked by violence between Los Zetas criminal group and the Sinaloa cartel.

Media reports named the journalists as Jaime Canales, cameraman for the TV station Multimedios; Oscar Solís, a reporter with the local newspaper El Vespertino; and Héctor Gordoa and Alejandro Hernández, both cameramen for the national Televisa network.

Canales called Multimedios and relayed a demand from the kidnappers that Mexican media group Milenio (which owns Multimedios) broadcast three videos in exchange for the journalists’ freedom, the local press reported. In a news story today, Milenio said it has already broadcast the videos, which showed interviews with two men who said they worked for Los Zetas, and another man identified as a police officer. The three talked about how the Zetas have corrupted local officials and police. It was not clear whether the men were being held against their will, although they appeared to be under duress.

CPJ was unable to determine whether the kidnappers have made other demands.

“We urge state and federal authorities to do everything in their power to locate the four missing journalists and bring them to safety,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s Americas senior program coordinator. “Mexican journalists are paying a terrible price for their work, and authorities must send a clear message that this brutal action will not go unpunished.”

Solís was abducted on Monday night, and the other three journalists were reported missing on Monday afternoon after covering protests organized by prisoners and their families at a detention center in the city of Gómez Palacio, in Durango, the Milenio group reported. Prison officials have been accused of allowing prisoners out to commit killings.

Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, CPJ research shows. More than 30 journalists have been killed and disappeared since President Felipe Calderón came to power in 2006.