Full investigation needed in Mexican journalist’s murder

Mexico City, April 25, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists joins journalists with the Mexican daily Vanguardia in calling on authorities to launch an efficient and thorough investigation into the murder of photographer Daniel Martínez Balzaldúa.

Martínez’s body was found with that of a friend, Julián Zamora Garcia, early Wednesday morning on a street in Saltillo, Vanguardía reported. He had last been seen by his colleagues at the daily’s offices around 3 p.m. Tuesday before he left to cover an event. He never arrived.

Martínez, 22, had worked for Vanguardia for only a month and had been assigned to the daily’s society section, which is an entry-level position, according to Ricardo Mendoza, the paper’s editorial director. Another editor at Vanguardia, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told CPJ that the climate of fear in Coahuila state prevented the newspaper from doing any investigation in stories with links to organized crime. Photographers covering the society section in Mexico have been targeted by organized crime groups in the past for inadvertently capturing images of cartel members, according to CPJ research.

The state prosecutor’s office issued a press release on Wednesday night that said two notes had been found at the scene of the crime that alleged the photographer had ties to criminal groups, according to Vanguardia. Mendoza said that the prosecutor had twisted the meaning of the messages to imply that Martínez had been killed for betraying a cartel. He told CPJ the prosecutor had no evidence and that it was too early to know why the photographer had been killed. A reporter at the paper who said he had seen the messages told CPJ he thought the meaning of the messages was ambiguous.

The state prosecutor’s office did not respond to CPJ’s requests for information.

“It is irresponsible for authorities to reach conclusions before conducting a full investigation,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, from New York. “We call on the authorities to fully investigate this crime, examine all possible motives, and bring those responsible to justice.”

Across Mexico, authorities at the state and local level have a dismal record of solving journalist murders. CPJ research shows that officials have been known to attack the reputation of the victims, either directly or through leaks to the press.

In March, the Zócalo newspaper chain, which publishes five papers in the state, announced that it would halt all coverage of organized crime because of the danger to its employees. Violence tied to drug trafficking has made Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the press, according to CPJ research.

  • For more data on Mexico, visit CPJ’s Attacks on the Press.