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Mexico12 December 2006

Police puzzlingly disregard professional lead in murder of journalist and indigenous comunity leader

Reporters Without Borders said it was horrified by the murder in Oaxaca State in southern Mexico of Raúl Marcial Pérez, editorialist on regional daily El Gráfico, whose death brings to nine the number of journalists killed in Mexico since the start of the year.

The worldwide press freedom organisation said it was surprised at the conduct of the police investigation which from the start had ruled out a link to his work as the motive.

“The murder of Raúl Marcial Pérez closes a particularly grim year for the Mexican press with three journalists missing and nine killed, two of them in Oaxaca State, where the media is paying a high price for a crackdown against social unrest there in the past two years,” the organisation added.

“We are appalled that the investigation into this murder is discounting the professional motive, even though colleagues at the daily he worked for, El Gráfico, stressed that he had exposed human rights abuses committed recently by supporters of the governor, Ulíses Ruiz Ortiz.

“Might they be trying to cover this one up, as happened previously in the investigation into the murder of Indymedia cameraman Brad Will, on 27 October?” it asked. “We have good reasons to believe so”.

Armed men burst into the offices of El Gráfico in Juxtlahuaca, an indigenous area in Oaxaca State, on 8 December, and opened fire on Marcial Pérez, who was killed instantly. A lawyer, María de Jesús, who was talking with the journalist at the time, was wounded but her injuries are not life-threatening. Twenty .22 and 9mm calibre cartridges were later recovered at the scene.

Marcial Pérez had worked for the daily for ten years and wrote a tri-weekly column, “El otro lado de la moneda” (The other side of the coin). Editor Issac Olmedo said, “Raúl was highly critical of the Ulíses Ruiz Ortiz government (whose resignation is being called for by the Oaxaca protestors). He had lately focused most of his articles on the Oaxaca unrest naming those responsible for the conflict.

Olmedo also stressed to the organisation that that in view of his activities as an indigenous leader, investigators had quickly ruled out the professional lead.

Marcial Pérez was the founder of the indigenous organisation, the Social Welfare Unity of the Triqui region (UBISORT), but had left its leadership two years ago. This organisation was in conflict with another, the Unification Movement of the Triqui Struggle (MULT).

The murder in 1999 of the secretary general of UBISORT was blamed on MULT. The lead being followed in the Marcial Pérez killing is that the journalist could have fallen victim to the same kind of score-settling. However, he had distanced himself from UBISORT and since the outbreak of social unrest in Oaxaca, indigenous organisations had joined forces to call for the governor’s resignation.

In a separate development, the governor’s supporters announced on 11 December that they were lifting a siege of the daily Noticias de Oaxaca, which had is work hampered and its premises occupied since 17 June 2005.

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