New York, May 21, 2012–Mexican authorities must break the cycle of impunity in journalist murders by fully investigating the killing of police beat reporter Marco Antonio Ávila García and bringing the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Ávila’s body, which showed signs of torture, was found on Friday on a dirt road near the city of Guaymas, in the state of Sonora, according to the state attorney general’s office. An autopsy revealed that he had been strangled to death, news reports said. José Larrinaga Talamante, a spokesman for the attorney general, told reporters that a written message associated with organized crime had been left with the body, but he did not reveal any more details.
Armed men had abducted Ávila on Thursday afternoon in the Sonoran town of Ciudad Obregón, about 65 miles from where his body was found, according to news reports. Larrinaga said that the journalist had been waiting for his car at a car wash on Thursday when three or four men armed with rifles forced him into their vehicle, according to a witness.
Ávila covered crime for the local daily El Regional de Sonora, and also wrote for the daily’s sister paper, El Diario de Sonora, in the Sonoran city of Nogales, according to his colleagues. Eduardo Flores, director of both papers, told The Associated Press that Ávila wrote about drug trafficking but wasn’t allowed to conduct in-depth reporting and had never even mentioned the cartels by name in his stories. The director said Ávila had never mentioned receiving threats.
Ávila’s colleagues, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told CPJ they were unaware of any reports of journalists being threatened in that part of the state or of any being told by drug traffickers to cut back on their coverage of organized crime groups. “We knew what the rules are in other parts of the country. So we thought we were doing enough to protect ourselves,” a local journalist told CPJ.
Reporting on crime is the most dangerous work for Mexican journalists. The bodies of two Mexican news photographers who had worked on the crime beat were found on May 3. Drug-related violence makes Mexico one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, CPJ research shows. Since 2006, more than 45 journalists have been killed or disappeared in Mexico, according to CPJ research.
“We are deeply saddened by the murder of Marco Antonio Ávila García and send our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “With each new fatality, it becomes clear that no area of the country is immune to anti-press violence. Mexican authorities must rise to this extraordinary challenge by investigating these murders fully and ensuring that criminals do not dictate the flow information.”
Flores told the AP that Ávila was married and had three children.