Journalist threatened after reporting on Veracruz murder

Mexico City, April 17, 2013–The national Mexican magazine Proceso reported Tuesday 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.  The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to fully investigate the alleged threats and to ensure Carrasco’s safety. 

Proceso said that on beginning Sunday it has been receiving information from confidential sources that current and former officials in the state government, the state police, and the state Attorney General’s office had been meeting to discuss taking “hostile actions against the reporter in response to his most recent publication on the Regina Martínez case.” Journalist and senior editor Jorge Carrasco has written in-depth, critical reports on the investigation of the April 2012 murder of the Proceso correspondent in Veracruz, Regina Martínez Pérez.

Since Martínez’s death, the magazine has alleged that the most likely motive for her murder was the journalist’s critical reporting on state officials, although it has offered no proof. Officials deny the claim. On April 9, Jorge Antonio Hernández Silva was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the murder, for which authorities say the motive was robbery. On Sunday, Proceso published a report by Carrasco that seriously questioned the state’s case against Hernández.

“Authorities must fully investigate these threats, including all possible links to Veracruz authorities, and ensure the safety of Carrasco and his family,” said CPJ’s Deputy Director Robert Mahoney from New York.

According to Proceso, officials had discussed ways to use police data banks to locate Carrasco. The magazine said it verified that police were then sent to several Mexican states to collect information on Carrasco, but did not elaborate. A source close to the case who asked to remain anonymous told CPJ that there had been a plan underway to kill the reporter, with men looking for him in Mexico City. Proceso published today a letter it received from state attorney general Felipe Amadeo Flores Espinosa calling the accusations “unfounded” and asking the magazine to immediately present any corroborating evidence it might have to authorities so they can investigate.

Federal authorities who asked to remain anonymous told CPJ that federal officials have been following the case since Monday and that Carrasco and his family have been offered federal police protection.

While Governor Javier Duarte has made efforts in public statements to cast the state as a safe place for the press, under his tenure Veracruz has become one of the most dangerous states for journalists in Mexico. At least eight have been murdered since he took office in late 2010, and many more have fled– permanently or temporarily–not only because of threats from organized crime but also from state government officials, according to CPJ research. They claim that reporting which looks at corruption or ties between government officials and organized crime is impossible.

Local corruption in many states led the Mexican Senate to approve a constitutional amendment in March 2012 that gives federal authorities broader jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes against freedom of expression. Secondary legislation that will effectively implement the reform recently passed the Senate and awaits approval in the lower house.

“This case demonstrates why the Mexican authorities must complete the process to federalize anti-press crimes,” said CPJ’s Mahoney. “As long as journalists who report on corruption are at the mercy of local authorities, they, and freedom of the press, will not be safe.”