Mexico City, February 6, 2023 – Mexican authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the abduction of two journalists and a media worker in the southern state of Guerrero, and account for the whereabouts of missing journalist Alan García Aguilar, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
A criminal gang in the Guerrero town of Arcelia abducted García along with journalist Jesús Pintor Alegre and media worker Fernando Moreno Villegas in late December, according to news reports.
On January 7, García, the founder and editor of the Facebook-based news outlet Escenario Calentano, and Moreno, an administrator at the outlet, were seen in chains in a video published by the outlet. In the video, Moreno said that they were “facing the consequences for what we said about these people from the Tierra Caliente region,” where Escenario Calentano is based. The outlet’s Facebook page is viewable in Mexico but not from the United States.
Moreno and Pintor, a writer and former correspondent for the defunct regional newspaper La Jornada de Guerrero, were released on January 11, according to news reports.
CPJ was unable to determine García’s whereabouts as of February 6. A local reporter, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity out of concern for their safety, said it was unclear whether he had been released or was still being held by the criminal gang.
“Mexican authorities must take all steps possible to account for the whereabouts of journalist Alan García, and should ensure that those who kidnapped García, Jesús Pintor, and Fernando Moreno are found and held to account,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Authorities must show that they are able to provide reporters with even the most basic guarantees that they can conduct their work without fearing for their lives or liberty.”
Escenario Calentano regularly covers organized crime in the region around the Guerrero city of Ciudad Altamirano, including Arcelia. In the months leading up to the abduction, the website posted about La Familia Michoacana, a criminal gang active in the region, as well as alleged political corruption.
The reporter who spoke to CPJ said the outlet’s coverage of La Familia Michoacana, which is in a power struggle with other gangs in the area, may have angered the gang and led to the abductions.
The Guerrero state prosecutor’s office published a short statement on January 10 announcing that it was investigating the abductions. A follow-up statement the next day said state authorities were coordinating the investigation with federal authorities, but did not give any further details. CPJ repeatedly called the prosecutor’s office for comment but did not receive any replies.
CPJ sent several messages to Pintor via messaging app after his release, but did not receive any responses. CPJ was unable to find contact information for García or Moreno.
According to news reports by Amapola, a Guerrero-based news website that has closely followed the case, García founded Escenario Calentano five years ago and is its principal editor. Moreno works as an administrator of the outlet, according to those reports; other reports said that Moreno also worked as a spokesperson for the Arcelia municipal government. Pintor knows the other two men personally but was not involved in Escenario Calentano, those reports said.
According to CPJ data, at least three journalists were killed in Mexico for their work in 2022. CPJ is investigating another 10 killings to determine their motives.