Journalist missing in Veracruz for 3 months

Mexico City, April 22, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Mexican authorities to fully investigate the disappearance of journalist Sergio Landa Rosado in the state of Veracruz. Landa, who covers the crime beat for the local daily Diario Cardel, has been missing since January, according to news reports.

Landa disappeared while working in the city of Cardel on January 23, according to Diario Cardel.  The newspaper reported his disappearance two days later and his wife filed a report with authorities the following week, but the case only came to the attention of the national media this month.

Journalists at Diario Cardel told CPJ that Landa reported on the murder of a taxi driver early in December. The next day, they said, two SUVs and a car with men carrying assault rifles came to the newspaper office and took the reporter away. The police and a Navy unit gave pursuit and Landa somehow escaped, though it’s not clear exactly how, the reporters said. While he was being held, Landa’s kidnappers told him that he was going to be killed for writing the story about the cab driver, according to the journalist’s colleagues and his wife, Isabel. A fellow reporter, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, told CPJ that the armed men told Landa the story was the kind that might elicit too much attention. Another reporter in Cardel said that an organized crime group has moved into the area and was kidnapping and extorting, but does not want its actions covered in the press. The reporter said he thought the murdered cab driver had probably not paid an extortion demand.

After escaping, Landa fled Cardel for a distant city in Veracruz where he worked for a newspaper affiliated with Diario Cardel, his wife said. A few weeks later he returned home but stayed in hiding in Cardel until the day of his disappearance. That morning, he went to the Diario Cardel newsroom for the first time since he had been abducted. A few hours later, he told another reporter he had to check on something and he would be right back, the reporter said. He has not been seen since.

“We are deeply concerned by the disappearance of Sergio Landa Rosado and call on Mexican authorities to conduct a thorough investigation to find him and bring the kidnappers to justice,” said CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, Carlos Lauría, from New York. “President Enrique Peña Nieto must show that he won’t tolerate the anti-press violence and intimidation that thrived under the previous administration.”

Journalists in the area told CPJ that Landa’s disappearance makes it clear to them that they cannot cover the local activities of the crime group. They said they assume that Landa was abducted again and had been killed.

Veracruz has become the most dangerous state for journalists in Mexico, according to CPJ research. Last week, the national Mexican magazine Proceso reported that it has learned of a plot by officials in the government of Veracruz to harm journalist Jorge Carrasco, who has reported extensively on the murder of the magazine’s correspondent in that state, Regina Martínez Pérez. At least eight journalists have been murdered since Gov. Javier Duarte took office in late 2010, and many more have fled–permanently or temporarily–because of threats from organized crime as well as from state government officials, according to CPJ research.

At least 12 other journalists have gone missing in Mexico over the past decade, according to CPJ research.