Body of missing Veracruz crime reporter Anabel Flores Salazar found in neighboring state

New York, February 9, 2016–The body of Anabel Flores Salazar, a reporter for El Sol de Orizaba who was abducted from her home near the city of Orizaba in Veracruz on Monday, was found today in the neighboring state of Puebla, according to a Puebla state official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Mexican federal authorities to take over investigation and prosecution of the crime and to consider journalism as a motive.

At least eight armed assailants dressed in what appeared to be military uniforms forced their way into Flores Salazar’s home at about 2 a.m. Monday and went straight to her room, the journalist’s aunt Sandra Luz Salazar, who was in the house at the time, told CPJ in a telephone interview. The assailants claimed they had a warrant for the reporter’s arrest, pointed weapons at family members, then forced Flores Salazar into one of three gray trucks outside, Luz Salazar said.

“We pleaded with them not to take her. I told them that she recently had a baby,” she said. According to news reports, Flores Salazar, who covers crime for El Sol de Orizaba, had a baby and a four-year-old son.

Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte Ochoa said on Twitter Monday that authorities were following the case carefully. A statement from the state prosecutor’s office, also released Monday, claimed the reporter had links with an alleged member of an organized crime group.

“The administration of Governor Javier Duarte Ochoa has a dismal record of impunity and has been incapable and unwilling to prosecute crimes against the press,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “We urge federal authorities to take over the investigation into Anabel Flores Salazar’s murder, seriously look her journalism as a possible motive, and bring all those responsible to justice.”

Flores Salazar, who covered local crime and police activities, had recently reported on a case of a store owner who was shot dead, according to press reports. She also reported on murders and car accidents for El Sol de Orizaba. A representative from El Sol de Orizaba told CPJ that the paper’s directors were unavailable to comment on the case. The journalist was described in some news reports as a former contributor for the dailies El Buen Tono and El Mundo de Orizaba.

The journalist’s aunt told CPJ that she was not aware of any threats against Flores Salazar.

A statement from the Veracruz state prosecutor’s office, issued shortly after her abduction, said that in August 2014 Flores Salazar had been in the company of an alleged member of an organized crime group at the time of his arrest. Authorities said they are looking into possible link between Flores Salazar and this individual. The statement did not provide further details.

José Martínez Sánchez, a spokesperson from the Veracruz state prosecutor’s office, told CPJ authorities had not discarded any lines of investigation, but that he could not comment on specific details.

When CPJ asked Luz Salazar about the alleged connection, she said her niece had been having dinner with her family when the suspected criminal, who was at the same restaurant but not with them, was arrested.

“Veracruz authorities have a history of denigrating the activities of local journalists without providing any concrete evidence,” said Lauría. “We urge authorities to abstain from making unfounded accusations that may further endanger the Veracruz media.”

Veracruz is one of the most dangerous regions in the world for journalists, CPJ research shows. Of the 11 journalists killed in direct retaliation for their work in Mexico since 2011, six were either killed in Veracruz or had reported in the state, and CPJ is investigating the murder of at least seven other journalists in the state. During the same time period, three other journalists have gone missing in the state.