Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the murders of Jaime Arturo Olvera Bravo, a freelance photographer and former correspondent for the daily La Voz de Michoacán, killed on 9 March in La Piedad in the central state of Michoacán, and Ramiro Téllez Contreras, a local radio reporter and police station switchboard operator, killed on 10 March in Nuevo Laredo in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
“With three journalists killed so far this year, Mexico is holding on to its regrettable position as the deadliest country for the press in the Americas,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It has not yet been established whether the murders of Olvera and Téllez were linked to their work as journalists, but there are reasons to suspect this.”
The press freedom organisation added: “We call on the special prosecutor’s office for crimes against journalists that was set up on 15 February to look into these two murders and explore the possibility that they were indeed linked to the victims’ work. The possible link to drug trafficking in the Téllez case is not a sufficient reason to leave it to the local authorities. The credibility of the special prosecutor’s office is at stake here. There must be no double standards.”
According to local press reports, Olvera was waiting for a bus to take his young son to a childcare centre at around 8 a.m. on 9 March when a gunman walked up and shot him at close range in the neck. He had resigned from La Voz de Michoacán in April 2002 in order to work as a salesman but had continued to do freelance reporting, above all about attacks against the local press.
The head of the special prosecutor’s office for crimes against journalists, David Vega, gave a representative based in Michoacán the job of conducting the initial enquires. Vega will take over the investigation only if there is evidence indicating a link between the murder and Olvera’s journalistic work.
Téllez, who worked for local radio station Exa 95.7 FM, was shot twice in the neck and once in the left knee outside his home as he was returning from work at around 5:30 a.m. on 10 March. He died 45 minutes later after being rushed to San José hospital. His murder comes just over a month after a machine-gun attack on the Nuevo Laredo-based daily El Mañana on 6 February in which one of its journalists, Jaime Orozco Tey, was nearly killed.
Téllez had received threats in recent days. Spent 9, 40 and 45 mm shells - calibres often used by drug traffickers - were found at the scene of the shooting. An investigation has been opened by the state prosecutor of Tamaulipas state, where six other journalists have been killed since 2000. Half of the killings of journalists in Mexico in the past six years have been in Tamaulipas.
The first journalist to be killed in Mexico this year was José Pepe Valdés Macías, who was gunned down in Sabinas in the northern state of Coahuila on 26 January. Valdés’s murder has been attributed to a family feud and any link to his work as a journalist has been ruled out.