Mexico City, May 22, 2017--Mexican authorities must undertake every effort to secure the safe release of journalist Salvador Adame Pardo, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Gunmen abducted Adame, director of the television station 6TV, on May 18 from the central Mexican town of Nueva Italia.
"Violence and attempts to intimidate the press in Mexico are preventing journalists from doing their jobs safely," Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas, said from New York. "We call on Mexican authorities to act quickly to ensure the safe release of Salvador Adame Pardo."
According to witnesses cited in media reports, armed men abducted Adame shortly before 8 p.m. on Nueva Italia's Lázaro Cárdenas Avenue, near a water purifying plant. The attackers forced him into their vehicle, a black SUV, and then fled the scene in the direction of Nuevo Coróndiro, northwest of Nueva Italia, approximately 250 miles west of Mexico City, according to the same witness reports.
In a brief statement Monday, the Michoacán State Attorney General's Office said authorities opened an investigation hours after the abduction took place, and that because Adame is a journalist, the federal attorney general's office (PGR) had been notified and that the federal police and military were searching the area around Nueva Italia.
A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office told CPJ that she was unable to comment on whether Adame's work as a journalist was being considered as the primary motive for the abduction, citing the ongoing investigation and concerns for the victim's safety.
Adame has been a journalist for two decades, based out of the Múgica municipality in southern Michoacán, where Nueva Italia is located. As director of 6TV, Adame covers general news and local politics. He has been a frequent critic of municipal officials, according to a friend and colleague, who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity out of concern for his safety.
In April 2016, CPJ reported that police detained Adame and Frida Urtiz, his wife and 6TV's co-owner, for several by local police while the two covered a sit-in demonstration at the seat of Nueva Italia's local government to protest the cancelation of a government-funded social project.
Adame told CPJ at the time that police beat him and his wife in the presence of municipal officials. He also told CPJ that he feared for his life and for his wife's life, and that he was considering leaving the state, but had not reported any direct threats to CPJ since.
The Múgica municipal government did not respond to CPJ's repeated phone calls on Monday.
According to news reports and Adame's colleague, the journalist generally avoided covering violence and organized crime in the region. The Tierra Caliente ('Hot Land') region, a wide area of farmland and mountain ranges covering roughly the southern half of Michoacán, has been a hotbed of organized crime for years. Recently, Nueva Italia in particular has been the scene of fighting between local drug trafficking gangs and armed citizens calling themselves "self-defense groups."
Mexico is the deadliest country for journalists to date in 2017. At least four journalists have been murdered in the country in direct retaliation for their work this year alone, according to CPJ research. CPJ is investigating the motives behind the March 19 murder of El Político editorial director Ricardo Monlui Cabrera to determine whether he was killed for his work.
Earlier this month, CPJ released a special report on impunity for the murder and abduction of journalists in Mexico.