Mexican crime reporter missing in Coahuila state

Mexico City, June 13, 2012–Mexican authorities must immediately investigate the case of a journalist and her son who have been missing since Friday morning, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Stephania Cardoso, 28, a crime reporter for the Saltillo-based daily Zócalo in the northern state of Coahuila, was reported missing by her mother on Friday morning after she called the journalist’s house and received no answer, Zócalo Deputy Director Luis Mendoza López told CPJ. Cardoso’s mother said that when she arrived at the house, her daughter and grandson were missing, their car was gone, and the home was in disarray, but said nothing appeared to be stolen from the house, Mendoza said.

Cardoso was last seen on Thursday night at a party with colleagues celebrating Mexico’s national freedom of expression day, according to news reports. Zócalo reported that when she got home at around 2 a.m. on Friday morning, she sent a text message to her friends saying she was safe.

Mendoza told CPJ that Cardoso had covered crime for the paper for about two and a half years. He also said that, as far as he knew, she had received no threats and that there had been no ransom requests.

Mendoza told CPJ that because the paper did not cover investigations or drug trafficking-related stories in depth for fear of reprisal, Cardoso’s coverage of crime in Saltillo was strictly limited. CPJ’s review of Cardoso’s most recent work found stories about petty crimes and traffic accidents.

“We are deeply concerned by the disappearance of Stephania Cardoso and her son,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon from New York. “Mexican authorities must immediately launch an investigation to find the journalist and her son, and bring the kidnappers to justice.”

In January 2010, the paper’s police beat reporter Valentín Valdéz Espinoza was killed, most likely in retaliation for a story he had written that included the name of a kingpin who had been arrested, according to local journalists. An editor at the paper told CPJ at the time that Zócalo was not calling on authorities for a thorough investigation for fear of reprisal.

Drug-related violence has made Mexico one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, according to CPJ research. More than 45 journalists have been killed or have disappeared since 2007.