Missing journalist found dead in Mexico

New York, June 2, 2011–With the news that the body of Noel López Olguín, a Mexican reporter who went missing in March, was found on Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on Mexican authorities to thoroughly investigate his murder. López was found Tuesday buried in a clandestine grave in the city of Chinameca, in the state of Veracruz, according to local news reports.

López’s body was found after a drug gang leader arrested Sunday by the Mexican army confessed to killing the journalist, CPJ research shows. Family members of the journalist identified his body on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. According to a local investigator cited by AP, the journalist died from a blow to the head.

“We are troubled by the brutal slaying of Noel López Olguín,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ senior program coordinator for the Americas. “We urge authorities in Veracruz and at the federal level to conduct a thorough investigation into his killing and bring all those responsible to justice.”

López, a columnist for the small newspaper La Verdad de Jáltipan, was kidnapped on March 8 by gunmen in two SUVs, local authorities told CPJ. The day he disappeared, López left his home in the afternoon and never came back, the Mexico City-based daily Milenio reported.   

Family members told CPJ that López had a long career working as a columnist for La Verdad de Jáltipan, and also as a stringer and photographer for several papers in the state of Veracruz, including the weeklies Noticias de Acayucan and Horizonte. The head of the state Commission for the Defense of Journalists, Gerardo Perdomo, said López wrote stories and columns that sharply criticized local corruption. Media outlets distanced themselves out of fear of reprisals from López after he was kidnapped, denying to CPJ that he’d ever worked for them or saying he’d only occasionally contributed a long while ago.

Drug-related violence now makes Mexico one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, according to CPJ research. Twelve journalists, including López, have been killed since 2010, at least three in direct reprisal for their work. CPJ is investigating to determine whether the other nine deaths were related to the journalists’ work.

According to CPJ’s recently launched 2011 Impunity Index, Mexico’s rating worsened for the third consecutive year, with 13 cases of journalists’ murdered unsolved, putting it at 8th on the list. The index identifies countries worldwide where journalists are murdered regularly and governments are unable or unwilling to solve the crimes.