José Luis Ortega Mata

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Ortega Mata, 37, was the editor of the weekly Semanario de Ojinaga, based in Ojinaga, Chihuahua State. He was shot twice in the head at close range with a .22-caliber firearm on the evening of February 19, according to local press reports.

Friends and relatives of the journalist linked his murder to a front-page story in the February 15 issue of Semanario de Ojinaga reporting that the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) was investigating drug trafficking activities in the town of Aldama, near the state capital, Chihuahua. Semanario de Ojinaga also claimed that local traffickers were moving drugs from safe houses in Aldama through Ojinaga to the United States.

It has also been reported that the paper was about to publish a story alleging that drug traffickers were funding the electoral campaigns of local politicians, and that Ortega Mata had received threats in connection with the story. In the past, the weekly has run articles criticizing local politicians and police.

CPJ expressed its concern about the murder of Ortega Mata in a March 7 letter to Arturo González Rascón, attorney general of the state of Chihuahua.

On April 29, a businessman named Jesús Manuel Herrera was arrested by state police and charged with Ortega Mata’s murder based on eyewitness testimony. However, jail records show that the alleged eyewitness who identified Herrera as the assailant was in jail at the time of Ortega Mata’s death. In addition, the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office was unable to provide a motive and offered no other evidence. Despite these revelations, Herrera remained imprisoned pending further investigations.

On July 13, after several hearings and more than 70 days in prison, an appeals court judge ruled that the evidence against Herrera was insufficient, and he was released.