Another journalist shot dead amid a wave of threats against media personnel

Published on 1 February 2010

A newspaper editor’s murder has brought the total of journalists killed in Mexico in the space of a month to three. Jorge Ochoa Martínez, the editor of the local daily El sol de la Costa and the weekly El Oportuno, was shot dead in Ayutla de los Libres, in the southern state of Guerrero, on 29 January. He was 55.

According to the police, Ochoa was shot several times with 38 calibre firearm. The authorities have not so far suggested any motive but his family told Reporters Without Borders they did not rule out the possibility that he was killed in connection with his work. The press freedom organisation therefore urges the authority to actively explore this hypothesis.

The family said it received several calls on the night of 29 January, including one from the police, saying Ochoa had been shot. One his sons told Reporters Without Borders: “I could not believe it. I thought it was a joke. I called my father several times but he did not pick up. Then I went to Ayutla and found his body.”

Although Ochoa’s death confirms that Mexico continues to be the hemisphere’s most dangerous country for the media, the authorities are failing to respond adequately to a wave of threats against media personnel by presumed drug traffickers and, in some cases, by local officials.

Juan Aparicio, the editor of El Observador, a magazine based in the southern state of Chiapas, was threatened by a member of the state’s border police, Pedro León Toro Peña, on 20 January while covering a raid on a house where a kidnapping had taken place.

Armando Suárez, a reporter for Puerto Viejo, a magazine based in La Paz, in the northwestern state of Baja California, was threatened by Loreto mayor Yuan Yee Cunningham and was hit by local officials on 21 January.

The torching of a car outside the studios of a radio station in Los Mochis, in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, on 27 January was accompanied by a message that read: “This will happen to journalists. They are going to be burned. With best wishes, La Mochomera.”

A total of 61 journalists have been murdered since 2000 and nine others have gone missing since 2003 in Mexico, which was ranked 137th out of 175 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.