Mexican journalist dies from injuries after being shot in Puebla state

Mexico City, September 20, 2016–The Committee to Protect Journalists urged authorities in the central Mexican state of Puebla today to conduct a full and credible investigation into the killing of journalist Aurelio Cabrera Campos, the founder and editorial director of a weekly news magazine, El Gráfico de la Sierra.

Cabrera was attacked by unknown assailants at about 11 p.m. on September 14, while driving near Huauchinango, a city in Puebla approximately 170 kilometers northeast of Mexico City, according to reports. In statements the prosecutor’s office made to media, authorities said the attackers shot multiple rounds at the journalist’s car. Emergency services arrived after the attack was reported in an anonymous phone call, but Cabrera died several hours later in a hospital in Huauchinango, reports said.

According to a statement by the state prosecutor’s office, the investigation is ongoing and the special federal prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression is reviewing the case.

Cabrera is at least the eighth journalist killed in Mexico this year, including at least two murdered in direct retaliation for their work, according to CPJ research. CPJ is investigating to determine the motive in the remaining cases.

“Authorities should swiftly establish a motive in the murder of Aurelio Cabrera Campos and bring those responsible to justice,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy executive director. “Mexican law enforcement and political leaders should show that they are able and willing to end the cycle of impunity that has put the country on track to be the deadliest in the hemisphere for journalists this year.”

Cabrera founded El Gráfico de la Sierra, a news magazine based in the city of Xicotepec, about a year ago, after leaving La Voz de la Sierra, another weekly based in the same city. Cabrera reported for both magazines on crime, accidents, and local politics, according to two of his colleagues, who spoke with CPJ on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

In the most recent two editions of El Gráfico de la Sierra, Cabrera reported on several murders in the region, which is located near the city of Poza Rica, in the neighboring state of Veracruz. Reporters in Puebla state interviewed by CPJ said there has been a surge in violent crime in the area, similar to Poza Rica, which they say is due to a turf war between organized crime groups. On May 17, the journalist Manuel Torres was killed in Poza Rica. CPJ is investigating to determine if his murder was in direct retaliation for his work.

Cabrera’s two colleagues told CPJ said they were unaware of him having received recent threats. In March last year, he reported having been beaten and threatened by family members of a man accused of kidnapping. The incident was confirmed to CPJ by one of Cabrera’s colleagues.

“He was a conscientious reporter, whom I never knew to have had any problems with local politics or public officials,” Carlos Barragán, a member of Mexico’s federal Chamber of Deputies for the Huauchinango district and two-time former mayor of Xicotepec, told CPJ. “I always had a good relationship with him, and I can’t say I have ever heard of that being any different with other officials.”

According to the two reporters with whom CPJ spoke, Cabrera and Pedro Garrido, the editorial director of his former paper, La Voz de la Sierra, were allegedly involved in a dispute that started after Cabrera founded his own newspaper.

Yesterday, several local media outlets reported that police had questioned Garrido in relation to the attack, and searched his residence. CPJ was unable to reach Garrido or La Voz de la Sierra for comment. In an article published on the magazine’s Facebook page on September 18, Garrido denied any involvement in Cabrera’s death, and said he had no rivalry or conflict with Cabrera. He offered his condolences to the journalist’s family, and called on authorities to thoroughly investigate the murder.