Journalists have one of the most challenging and dangerous jobs in the world. They are often marked out as prime targets in political and social wars, especially when they report on controversial issues. In Honduras, two human rights reporters were found murdered after they had disappeared for a number of days. It is clear they were targeted for the type of work they conducted.
Mexico has also seen a rise in the number of journalists who have been kidnapped and killed in recent months. Al Jazeera reports that at least seven journalists or reporters have been murdered in the state of Veracruz in the last 18 months.
This week, another journalist has succumbed to violence. Manuel Baez Chino, a crime reporter in the state of Veracruz, was found dead on a city street this Thursday. The Associated Press reports that Baez Chino was kidnapped as he left work late on Wednesday. When his body was found the next day, it was found with a note that reportedly read, “This is what happens to those who betray us and be clever, Sincerely the Zetas.”
Baez Chino’s death is significant. He was one of the few journalists in Veracruz still fearless enough to continue writing about the crime scene in the area. He wrote for the national edition of Milenio and continued to work in the face of climbing journalist deaths. In early May, four bodies were found in the town of Boca del Rio in Veracruz. The victims were all involved in journalism and showed signs of having been tortured and mutilated, Al Jazeera reports. In 2011, two more journalists were shot, and even the wife and child of one of the reporters were murdered.
More recently, another journalist and her son went missing this past week in the state of Coahuila. Officials are concerned about her whereabouts and have called for an official investigation into her disappearance. Veracruz has significant drug cartel activity. The Zetas and New Generation are two warring cartels which are extremely active in the area. Officials in Veracruz were forced to fire 800 police officers in recent years because of Zeta corruption in the ranks.
It is reported that 81 media workers have been killed between 2000 and 2012 in the current drug wars. Journalists are not the only victims in this bloody battle. Last month, 49 headless bodies were found dumped by the side of the road in Monterrey. The victims appeared to be part of a Zeta ploy to dominate the region.
Officials claim they are cracking down on the activities of these groups. The Mexican military claims to have captured the Zetas chief of production, Gregorio Villanueva Salas this week. The capture may not prove successful in protecting hardworking journalists who face daily threats of capture and murder.
Murders of both individual reporters and citizens are often considered as ploys used by rival cartels. By blaming a massacre or kidnapping on a rival group, such as the Zetas, other cartels force the police to pursue investigations into the activities of the enemy cartel, thereby freeing up territory that was threatened by domination of stronger cartels such as New Generation and Zetas.
Photo Credit: Alejandro Linares Garcia