Martínez’ body was found in her home in Xalapa, the capital of the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, news reports said. She had been badly beaten around the face and ribs and had been strangled to death, according to news reports. The state attorney general, Amadeo Flores Espinoza, said in a news briefing that it appeared her TV, cellphones, and computer had been stolen.
Martínez had worked for the national magazine Proceso for more than 10 years and was known for her in-depth reporting on drug cartels and the links between organized crime and government officials. In the week before her murder, she covered the arrest of an allegedly high-ranking leader of the Zetas; the arrests of nine police officers charged with working for a cartel; and the story of a local mayor who was arrested with other alleged cartel gunmen after a shootout with the Mexican Army, according to news reports.
Martínez’ colleagues said she had not told them about any threats prior to her death. Two days after the murder, a state spokesperson, Gina Domínguez, said that authorities would look into Martínez’ journalism as a possible motive.
Since Martínez’s death, Proceso has alleged that the most likely motive for her murder was the journalist’s critical reporting on state officials. Officials have denied the claim.
The office of the state governor, Javier Duarte de Ochoa, ordered a special group of agents to investigate the murder. Proceso stated on its website that the state government had granted the magazine staff access to any information resulting from the investigation. The magazine also said that its executives had told the governor they were skeptical that the investigation would succeed because of the systemic dysfunction in the country.
In November 2012, the state attorney general announced that Jorge Antonio Hernández Silva had confessed and that robbery was the motive. But in his first court appearance, Hernández claimed he had been tortured and his family threatened if he did not make a false confession. Hernández was convicted in April 2013 and sentenced to 38 years in prison, but four months later judges voted to vacate the sentence, citing irregularities.
In April, Proceso reported a plot by officials in the government of Veracruz to harm Jorge Carrasco, senior editor with the magazine, who had reported extensively on Martínez’s murder. A source close to the case who asked to remain anonymous told CPJ that there had been a plan under way to kill Carrasco, and that men were looking for him in Mexico City. Carrasco went into hiding with federal government protection. Proceso later published a letter from the Veracruz state attorney general’s office, calling the accusations “unfounded.”
While Governor Duarte made efforts in public statements to cast the state as a safe place for the press, under his tenure Veracruz became one of the most dangerous states for journalists in Mexico. At least eight journalists had been murdered since he took office in late 2010, and many more fled–permanently or temporarily–not only because of threats from organized crime but also from state government officials, according to CPJ research.