With nine journalists murdered and three missing, the country has the worst record in the Americas in 2006 and was second only to Iraq for the number killed, despite establishment in February of a special federal court to punish physical attacks on the media.
Federal authorities seem to have realised the serious threats to the country’s media when they set up a special court on 15 February 2006 to deal with physical attacks on journalists. The federal chamber of deputies approved amendments to the criminal code on 18 April (already passed by the senate) recognising the right of journalists not to reveal their sources and decriminalising press offences. But these good intentions did not prevent one of the worst annual press freedom tolls of the past decade in the Americas.
The violence began on 6 February when gunmen opened fire on the staff of the daily El Mañana in the northeastern state of Nuevo Laredo, seriously wounding one person. Two journalists were killed on 9 and 10 March: freelance photographer Jaime Arturo Olvera Bravo in the southwestern state of Michoacán and Ramiro Téllez Contreras, of the local radio station Exa 95.7 FM, also in Nuevo Laredo. The weapons used to murder Téllez Contreras suggested his killers were drug-traffickers.
The drug cartels were also suspected of kidnapping Rafael Ortiz Martínez, of the daily Zócalo, in Moclova (in the northern state of Coahuila) on 8 July, after he reported on new drug-smuggling centres in the region. Another drug-trafficking expert, Enrique Perea Quintanilla, founder and editor of the monthly Dos Caras, Una Verdad, was shot dead on 9 August in the northern state of Chihuahua, probably by professional killers. A contract on his life had been put out by the Ciudad Juárez cartel, according to a video confession by two suspected killers that was sent to the TV Azteca station on 12 October.
An unprecedented six more journalists were killed between October and December and two others vanished. Guevara Guevara Domínguez, editor of the online version of the weekly Siglo 21, vanished on 8 October while reporting near the border between Durango (North) and Chihuahua states. Misael Tamayo Hernández, managing editor of the regional daily El Despertar de la Costa, was found dead in a motel in the southern state of Guerrero on 10 November, with his hands bound and killed by a lethal injection. Six days later, the former managing editor of the daily Excelsior, José Manuel Sánchez Nava, who had just published a book criticising the attitude of President Vicente Fox’s government to the takeover of the paper, was found stabbed to death in his Mexico City apartment.
Roberto Marcos García, deputy editor of the weekly Testimonio in the eastern state of Veracruz, another drug-trafficking centre, was shot dead in the street on 21 November after receiving threats. Also in Veracruz, the body of Adolfo Sánchez Guzmán, who worked with the TV station Televisa Veracruz and radio station Xhora Ori Estereo 99.3 FM, was found on 30 November, apparently the victim of score-settling between highway bandits. Two brothers were arrested. Ten days earlier in Michoacán state, editor José Antonio García Apac of the weekly Ecos de la Cuenca, vanished.
Pitched battle in oaxaca
The festering year-long political and social crisis in the southern state of Oaxaca erupted in May into open warfare between aides of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and his opponents in the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO). Brad Will, an American cameraman for the independent news agency Indymedia, was killed by a bodyguard of the governor on 27 October during riots that included ransacking of media offices and many physical attacks on journalists. Local investigators tried to blame his death on the APPO and two city policemen suspected of killing him were freed after a month. The governor also claimed score-settling between indigenous movements caused the 8 December killing of columnist Raúl Marcial Pérez, in the offices of the daily El Gráfico. The investigation did not consider the possibility he was killed because of his work.
In the southeastern state of Yucatán, four attacks were made on the daily Por Esto! between June and September with the probable complicity of local authorities. A very harsh crackdown on a peace demonstration in the Mexico City suburb of San Salvador Atenco on 3 and 4 May included violence and sexual abuse of three young foreign journalists.
Ángel Mario Ksheratto, of the daily Cuarto Poder, was jailed between 4 and 22 February and then freed on €8,000 bail. He had been arrested in January 2003 and October 2005 for libelling a local official in the southern state of Chiapas. He was imprisoned on 11 November 2006 for violating the terms of his probation, then freed on bail again on 19 December. Chiapas state law allows imprisonment of up to nine years for press offences and about 40 journalists are currently being prosecuted there.