Mexican reporter killed in Veracruz

New York, May 17, 2016 – Mexican authorities should thoroughly investigate the killing of journalist Manuel Santiago Torres González, who was shot to death on Saturday in the city of Poza Rica, in the eastern coastal state of Veracruz, and bring all those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

According to local press reports, Torres was shot in the head at around 3 p.m. in Poza Rica’s Cazones neighborhood by an unidentified assailant, walking to his home after covering an electoral campaign event in nearby Tuxpan, according to press reports. He is survived by his wife and two children.

“Mexican authorities must thoroughly investigate the murder of Manuel Santiago Torres González, establish a motive, and bring all those responsible to justice,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Veracruz has become the most deadly state for journalists in one of the most dangerous countries for journalists worldwide.”

Torres, 48, was the editor of Internet portal Noticias MT. He also worked as an assistant to a local councilman, the Veracruz state attorney’s office, said in a statement. In the past, Torres had been a reporter for portal, newspaper El Noreste de Poza Rica, and a correspondent for national broadcaster TV Azteca, according to press reports. He had also regularly contributed to a number of regional publications, and was a recipient of the State Journalism Award in 2009.

At least six journalists have been killed in direct retribution for their work since Governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa took office in 2010. At least eight other journalists who lived or reported in Veracruz have been killed for unclear reasons in the same time period, and at least three other journalists from the state have been reported missing, according to CPJ research.

The Veracruz state commission for the protection of journalists condemned the murder and, in a brief statement, called for the authorities to investigate. The Veracruz state attorney general’s office identified him only as an “assistant of a local councilman.”

Colleagues and others who knew Torres told CPJ that they were unaware of any specific threats against him. One former colleague, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said he and many of his fellow journalists in Veracruz were “baffled” by the murder.

According to Torres’ colleague, the journalist had launched Noticias MT last year, publishing news articles on local affairs. He told CPJ the victim had covered police news when he worked for El Noreste de Poza Rica, but had stopped reporting on violence and crime altogether several years ago. He had recently covered election campaigns in the region and local teacher examinations.

“We really don’t know where the attacks come from anymore,” the same reporter told CPJ. “This is another blow to journalism in the state.”

Veracruz is a hub for drug and human trafficking and has been the site of violent battles between organized crime groups for almost a decade. Poza Rica has often been the focal point of the violence.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist, according to CPJ research. Since 1992, at least 36 journalists have been killed there for their work, while dozens more have died in unclear circumstances. Mexico ranked eighth on CPJ’s 2015 Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are murdered and their assailants go free.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paragraph five of this text has been corrected to reflect that the number of unsolved murders of journalists in Veracruz since Governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa took office in 2010 is at least eight, not six.