Mexican crime reporter shot to death in Oaxaca

Mexico City, July 18, 2013–Mexican authorities should conduct an open and thorough investigation into the murder of a crime reporter whose body was found on Wednesday in Oaxaca City, the capital of Oaxaca state, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Alberto López Bello had been badly beaten and shot, government officials told CPJ.

“Crime reporters in Mexico work at enormous risk, constantly facing threats, intimidation, and attacks that are virtually never punished,” Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, said from New York. “The cycle of impunity in anti-press crimes has had a devastating effect on the public’s right to information, especially on matters of crime and corruption. The government can begin to break this terrible cycle by fully investigating this crime.”

A spokesman for the state Attorney General who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity said López had been beaten and shot and that his body was found with that of another man, Arturo Alejandro Franco, who has been identified in news reports as an undercover police informant. Oaxaca City officials said Franco was a city employee. Police said he had been beaten and shot as well.

López, 28, had worked as a reporter for about six years for statewide newspaper El Imparcial, according to local journalists who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal. The sources said López had worked the police beat and had recently published several stories about drug sales in the city.

Reporters covering the police beat in Mexico are vulnerable to threats from organized crime cartels and from the police who often work for the gangs, CPJ research shows. Organized crime groups in many states control drug production and distribution down the street level and often pay off or terrorize police into ignoring their operations.

López also covered police news for “Foro Político,” a local radio program on Radiorama station. Sofia Valdivia, who worked at Radiorama and oversaw López’s work, said he regularly reported on organized crime and police were sometimes said to be involved.

The governor of Oaxaca, Gabino Cué Monteagudo, has announced that the state government will fully investigate the case. He said he would ask the federal Attorney General’s special prosecutor for crimes against journalists to join the investigation.

Three of El Imparcial’s distributors were shot to death on October 9, 2007, while driving in a truck bearing the paper’s logo. The murders followed threats to editors that the paper had to tone down its coverage of local drug trafficking gangs, according to press reports at the time. A deputy editor of the paper told CPJ that on the day of the murders he and a reporter had received several death threats. The murders remain unsolved.

Violence tied to drug trafficking has made Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the press, according to CPJ research. More than 50 journalists have been killed or have disappeared since 2007. In at least 14 cases, CPJ has confirmed a direct relation to their work.

After a long campaign by press and advocacy groups, President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law in May legislation that gives federal authorities broader jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes against the press.

  • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ’s Mexico page.