New York, March 11, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists is
alarmed by a wave of drug-related violence in the Mexican city of Reynosa, near
the Texas border, which is endangering the news media and causing widespread
self-censorship. In the past two weeks, several journalists have been abducted
and one reporter has died in unclear circumstances, according to press reports
and CPJ interviews.
“We call on Mexican authorities
to fully investigate the abduction of reporters in Reynosa and ensure that these crimes
do not remain unpunished,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ senior program
coordinator for the Americas.
“We urge the government of President Felipe Calderón to provide safety
guarantees for the press, and to make the protection of free expression a top
The Dallas Morning News reported on Monday that eight Mexican journalists were abducted in
separate episodes in the Reynosa
area, near McAllen,
One reporter died, two were released, and the rest were missing, the Morning News reported.
The Morning News
and CPJ sources identified the deceased man as Jorge
Rábago Valdez, a well-known Reynosa
Rábago, a journalist with the Reynosa-based daily La Prensa
and local broadcasters Radio Rey and Reporteros en la
Red, died on March 2 at Christus Muguerza Hospital
that are not yet clear. The state prosecutor’s office ruled the death was by
natural causes after Rábago had suffered an embolism and lapsed into diabetic
coma. But several reporters told CPJ that Rábago had been badly beaten.
The reporters, who didn’t want
their names published for fear of reprisal, said they visited the unconscious
Rábago in the hospital and it appeared clear that he had been beaten. The journalists
told CPJ that they also retraced Rábago’s most recent activities; in doing so,
they said, they were told that police officers had seized Rábago shortly before
The state prosecutor’s office
denied that Rábago was beaten. The hospital declined CPJ requests for
information about Rábago’s condition. CPJ is investigating whether Rábago’s
death was related to his work as a journalist.
Only one of the other reported
disappearances has been confirmed by authorities. On Tuesday, the Tamaulipas
state prosecutor’s office said Miguel Angel Domínguez Zamora, a reporter for
the daily Reynosa-based El Mañana
has been missing since March 1. A Domínguez family member had filed a formal
complaint with the Tamaulipas prosecutor’s office.
But news reports and CPJ
interviews point to several other abductions. Two reporters for the Milenio
media group, assigned to cover a wave of drug-related violence in Reynosa
were seized on March 3 and released the next day, the Mexico City-based daily Milenio
reported. A reporter and a
cameraman for Milenio Television, whose names were not disclosed because of
safety concerns, were kidnapped by gunmen and told to leave immediately, Milenio
said. “Journalism is dead in Reynosa
Ciro Gómez Leyva, a top editor, wrote in a Milenio
A CPJ source said Wednesday that four
other reporters in Reynosa
are believed to
have been abducted. One works for the newspaper El Mañana, a second for sister publication La Tarde, a third for the news Web site MetroNoticias, and a fourth for the daily La Prensa, according to the source, who spoke only on condition of
anonymity. MetroNoticias employees
said their reporter was now safe but would not elaborate or make the reporter
available for comment. The other media employers would not comment publicly.
The reported abductions come amid
a series of extremely violent confrontations between two drug cartels in the Reynosa
border area, press reports said. For the most part, local reporters said, the
press has been intimidated into not covering the violence.
The abductions have sown even
great fear in the local press corps. Authorities have provided very little
information, and local news organizations are fearful of reporting anything
about the cases. Journalists in Reynosa
and in nearby
border communities told CPJ that speaking to outsiders about the disappearances
could bring retaliation from drug cartels or police. Journalists told CPJ that
they assume the cartels are behind the kidnappings, and that corrupt police are
protecting the traffickers.
"As drug trafficking, violence, and lawlessness take hold,” CPJ’s
Lauría said, “the Mexican media are forced into silence. This pervasive
self-censorship is causing severe damage to Mexican democracy.”
is one of the most
dangerous countries for the press, CPJ research shows. Since 1992, a total of
44 journalists have been killed
At least 19 of them were slain in direct reprisal for their work, CPJ
investigations have found. Another eight journalists have disappeared
2005. Most covered organized crime or government corruption.