New York, July 7, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Mexican authorities in the state of Veracruz to consider journalism as a motive in the death last week of Mexican journalist Juan Mendoza Delgado, investigate the case thoroughly, and ensure the killers are brought to justice.
Veracruz is one of the most dangerous states in Mexico for the press, according to CPJ research. Mendoza’s death comes just two months after Veracruz radio journalist Armando Saldaña Morales was shot dead. Saldana’s body was found on May 4, according to news reports. In January, another Veracruz reporter, José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo, was abducted and killed in the municipality of Medellín de Bravo. The then-mayor of the district is accused of having ordered the crime and is currently a fugitive, according to news reports.
“Authorities have long sought to downplay the risks to journalists in Veracruz, but the death of Juan Mendoza Delgado is further evidence of the fact that the state is one of the most deadly places in the world for the press,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Attempts by local authorities to diminish these crimes have compounded the dangers and the climate of impunity in the state.”
Mendoza was the director and founder of the local news website Escribiendo la Verdad in Medellín de Bravo, according to news reports. He also worked as a taxi driver. Prior to that, he covered the crime beat for the local daily El Dictamen for more than a decade, news reports said.
The journalist’s wife, Taide Griselda Pavón Moguel, told CPJ she last saw her husband on June 30 when he left for work in his taxi and that she reported him missing that day.
Veracruz authorities said in a statement on July 2 that they found Mendoza’s body the day before on a highway in Veracruz and that the journalist’s body showed signs that he had been run over by a car.
Mendoza’s wife and local press reports questioned state authorities’ version of Mendoza’s death. News accounts noted that Mendoza’s body was found far from his normal work route and that his taxi was still missing. Other local reports questioned why in some photographs from the crime scene his head appeared to be bandaged and called on authorities to provide more information on how his body was found. Other accounts citing the photographs said his body showed signs of abuse.
Mendoza had criticized local politicians and organized crime in his columns, titled “Why be quiet?,” on Escribiendo la Verdad, according to CPJ’s review of the website. One short article without a byline on the site’s homepage accuses a local politician of using a home owned by a member of the Zetas drug cartel for a campaign event.
Mendoza’s wife told CPJ she was not aware if the journalist had received threats.
In the past, Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte de Ochoa’s government has sought to dismiss any possible link between journalists’ murders and their profession. Last week, Duarte told reporters, “We must not confuse freedom of expression with representing the expression of criminals in the media” and accused local reporters of collaborating with crime gangs.
- For data and analysis on Mexico, visit CPJ’s Mexico page here.