Mexican columnist, abducted, found dead

Mexico City, June 5, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of Mexican columnist and government spokesman Jorge Torres Palacios and calls on authorities to fully investigate the crime and bring those responsible to justice. Torres’ body was found in a bag in an orchard in Guerrero state on Monday, three days after he was abducted by unidentified assailants at his home in Acapulco, according to news reports.  

Torres wrote a weekly column on politics and security, called “Nothing Personal,” for the Acapulco newspaper El Dictamen. Some of his articles appeared in Libertad Guerrero Noticias, a local news website. He was also the spokesman for the Acapulco municipal health department in Guerrero state for two years following his time in a similar position for former Guerrero state Gov. Zeferino Torreblanca. Prior to that, he hosted news programs on the Guerrero state radio and TV networks.

No ransom was demanded after his abduction, according to colleagues. Authorities said they were investigating the murder, according to reports.

Some local journalists who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal told CPJ they did not think Torres’ murder was in relation to his work. But other local journalists criticized official statements and press releases in which, they said, authorities referred only to Torres’ government position and did not acknowledge his work as a journalist, according to the daily La Jornada Guerrero. Torres had written several columns critical of local officials shortly before his death.

“We are troubled that Mexican authorities appear to be discounting any possible link between Jorge Torres Palacios’ work as a columnist and this crime,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, from New York. “Authorities must fully investigate Torres’ abduction and murder, determine any possible link to his columns or to local politicians, and bring those responsible to justice.”

In what El Dictamen said was his last column, published shortly after he was abducted, Torres criticized the mayor of Chilpancingo, capital of Guerrero state, accusing him of putting personal political ambition ahead of problems such as crime and corruption. Some of his columns include one published in March in Libertad Guerrero Noticias, in which he accused a state senator of putting gubernatorial plans ahead of congressional work. Another column the same month in Libertad Guerrero Noticias criticized the son of current Guerrero Gov. Ángel Aguirre, who the journalist alleged wanted to run for mayor of Acapulco.

Journalists from across Guerrero held public protests demonstrating against Torres’ abduction and murder.

Drug-related violence makes Mexico one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, according to CPJ research. Journalist Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz was abducted and later found dead in Veracruz in February. However, the overall number of journalists killed in direct relation to their work is very difficult to confirm because law enforcement fails to carry out the most basic investigations to determine a motive, CPJ research shows. Mexico ranked seventh on CPJ’s 2013 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This alert has been corrected to reflect that Torres spent two years as the spokesman for the Acapulco municipal health department.