Mexican reporter killed in Matamoros crossfire

New York, November 8, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists called today for a thorough investigation into the shooting death of crime reporter Carlos Alberto Guajardo Romero, who was killed on Friday during crossfire between the Mexican army and gunmen in the border city of Matamoros, local news reports said. The shooting was among a series of violent events that took place the same day in Matamoros, and led to the killing of Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén, leader of the Gulf drug cartel.

Guajardo Romero, 37, a reporter with the local daily newspaper Expreso Matamoros, left home around 11 a.m. to cover the shooting in the Matamoros’ southern neighborhood of Fraccionamiento Victoria, news reports said. His pickup was reportedly shot at least 20 times as he was heading for the Secretariat of Homeland Security to gather more information on the violence. National news outlets said army officers allegedly fired at the journalist’s unmarked truck because they mistook him for gunmen involved in the shooting.

Guajardo Romero’s body was found around noon, according to local news reports. The National Commission on Human Rights said in a statement on Saturday that it will oversee the government investigation into the journalist’s killing.

When he met with CPJ in September, President Felipe Calderón promised greater oversight of security forces who have impeded the work of journalists covering their activities,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “While Carlos Alberto Guajardo Romero appears to have been killed in crossfire, his death highlights the urgency of the president’s commitment. A complete and public investigation into the killing of Guajardo Romero is required.”

Expreso Matamoros said there were grenade explosions and gunfire in the military operation to capture drug gang leader Cárdenas Guillén. The army deployed 150 soldiers, three helicopters, and 17 vehicles to the city, according to a government statement. Three soldiers and five gunmen–including Cárdenas Guillén–were killed, the government said.

Drug-related violence has turned Mexico into one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, CPJ research shows. Ten journalists have been killed in the country in 2010, including Guajardo Romero. CPJ is investigating to determine whether all those deaths were related to the journalists’ work.