London, 27 January 2015
The recent discovery of the body of newspaper editor José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo shows yet again the need for federal and state authorities to carry out swift and thorough investigations into all murders of journalists in Mexico, and to bring perpetrators to justice, PEN International said today.
The decapitated body of Sánchez Cerezo was discovered by the Veracruz state authorities on 24 January 2015, 22 days after he was abducted from his home in Medellín de Bravo, Veracruz state, by a group of heavily armed men on 2 January 2015. His abductors also seized his computer, camera and mobile telephone before bundling him into one of three vehicles. A suspect who has reportedly confessed to taking part in the murder has said that the crime was ordered by the local mayor, who has denied any involvement in the crime.
Sanchez´ body was discovered, decapitated, in bin bags in the municipality of Manlio Fabio Altamirano on 24 January after a gang member and former police officer arrested in connection with Sánchez’ disappearance, Clemente Noé Rodríguez Martínez, reportedly confessed to his role in the crime.
According to a statement released by the Veracruz state attorney general’s office, Rodríguez alleges that the journalist was killed on the day he was abducted, on the orders of the deputy chief of the municipal police, Martín López Meneses, who in turn was acting on behalf of the mayor of Medellín de Bravo, Omar Cruz Reyes, for whom López also works as chauffeur and security guard. The state attorney general has reportedly requested the impeachment of the mayor, who benefits from immunity by virtue of his position. Five others are also being sought by the state authorities with the assistance of the Navy (Secretaria de Marina) and state police force (Fuerza Civil).
Working as a journalist in Mexico is fraught with danger as the country faces spiralling levels of violence, much of it stemming from drug cartels and the government’s armed offensive against them., At least 67 print and internet journalists, bloggers and writers – including Sánchez – have been murdered in the country since 2004; Veracruz is again among the worst offenders for journalist killings, along with Tamaulipas, Guerrero and Chihuahua. Very few – if any – of these murders have been satisfactorily resolved. At least 10 other print journalists have disappeared since in Mexico in the last decade; their fate remains unknown.
Sánchez, aged 49, was the owner and editor of La Unión, a free weekly print and digital newspaper circulated in communities surrounding Medellín de Bravo, Veracruz; he reportedly also worked as a taxi driver. Active in his local community and involved in the local neighbourhood watch group, he was often critical of the local authorities’ track record in tackling crime both in his articles and on Facebook, according to reports.
Recently, Sánchez had reported on – and participated in – recent protests against alleged abuses carried out by the mayor of Medellín de Bravo. Three days before his abduction, on 30 December 2014, Sánchez was warned to stop his reporting by an unidentified man who approached his home, according to his son.
In a public statement made on 5 January 2015 the mayor denied any involvement.
Over the course of the investigation into Sánchez’ disappearance conducted by the Veracruz state attorney general’s office with the assistance of Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos en contra de la Libertad de Expresión – FEADLE) – the state has reportedly interviewed at least 60 people, including the mayor and other municipal officers.