CPJ welcomes arrests in Mexican journalists’ abductions

New York, August 5, 2010—Mexican federal police announced this morning the arrests of three men in connection with the abduction of four journalists taken captive on July 26, according to local press reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists commends the swift capture of the suspects and calls on authorities to bring all those responsible to justice.

Facundo Rosas, general commissioner of Mexico’s federal police, identified the suspects as Jesús Antonio Villa Nevarez, Gilberto Cervantes Pinto, and Oscar Manuel Gutiérrez Gómez, according to a statement issued by the Secretariat of Public Safety. Rosas said the men worked for the criminal group known as Cartel del Pacífico.
“We applaud Mexican federal authorities for making speedy progress in investigating the kidnapping of our colleagues,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “But arrests are the first step only. We will monitor the judicial process to see that these arrests are followed by a full and thorough prosecution.”
The suspects were arrested late Wednesday in Gómez Palacio, the city where the four journalists were abducted, federal officials said. The cartel, officials said, had taken the journalists hostage to force news organizations to publicize its propaganda. Local affiliates of the national networks Televisa and Multimedios, whose employees were among those being held, did publicize cartel accusations that a rival criminal group was promoting government and police corruption around Gómez Palacio.
Police said they raided a home late Wednesday and found one suspect, who then provided information on the whereabouts of others, press reports said. At the second location, police said, officers engaged in a shootout in which a suspect, Villa, was wounded. There, police said, they also found a video camera and a microphone belonging to one of the hostages.
All four captives were found unharmed last week. Javier Canales, a cameraman for the Milenio Group-owned Multimedios, and Alejandro Hernández, a cameraman for the national network Televisa, were found before dawn Saturday in a house in Gómez Palacio, local and international news reports said. Héctor Gordoa, a cameraman for Televisa, was released unharmed on July 29. Oscar Solís, a reporter for the local newspaper El Vespertino, was kidnapped separately on July 26 but held captive with the other reporters. Solís was also released last week, according to The Associated Press.
The four were abducted in the Laguna region, which includes Durango and areas of the neighboring state of Coahuila. The region has been wracked by violence between rival criminal groups.
Wednesday’s arrests were an unusually fast response by authorities in a country where more than 90 percent of violent anti-press crimes go unsolved, according to CPJ research. “Mexican authorities must break the cycle of impunity in journalists’ crimes as the wave of violence is causing lasting damage to Mexican democracy,” Lauría said.
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.