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Mexico24 April 2007

Sonora journalist’s body found a week after his abduction by armed group

Reporters Without Borders voice its regret today at the news that the body of Saúl Martínez Ortega, a journalist who was kidnapped on 16 April in Agua Prieta in the northwestern state of Sonora, was found yesterday about three hours’ drive away in the neighbouring state of Chihuahua. Forensic experts think he was killed within a few hours of his abduction by a heavily-armed group.

The press freedom organisation said it offered its condolences to Martínez’s family and colleagues. Mexico continues to be the western hemisphere’s deadliest country for journalists, with two dead and one missing since the start of the year.

Aged 36, Martínez worked for the magazine Interdiario and the Diario de Agua Prieta daily newspaper. He had of late been investigating the abduction and murder of one of his sources, a former Agua Prieta municipal policeman, which occurred a month before his own abduction.

17.04 - Editor abducted by heavily armed group in Sonora is second Mexican journalist to disappear this year

Reporters Without Borders today called for a rapid response from the federal authorities to last night’s abduction of Saúl Martínez Ortega, of the Diario de Agua Prieta Sonora newspaper, in Agua Prieta, in the northwestern state of Sonora. He is the second newspaper journalist to disappear in suspicious circumstances in Mexico this year, following Tabasco Hoy reporter Rodolfo Rincón Taracena in the southeastern state of Tabasco in January.

“An anti-drug offensive by the federal authorities is triggering violent reprisals from the traffickers,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Journalists are more exposed than ever to this kind of violence and we fear a sharp decline in press freedom in certain states. The fight against organised crime must be accompanied by a fight against the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for violence against the press. It is up to the federal authorities to carry out investigations, including investigations into the state and municipal governments.”

A group of men armed with large-calibre guns kidnapped Martínez outside the municipal security office in Agua Prieta. The local press said he initially tried to escape in his own car but was overtaken by two pickups. Several bullets were later found in his abandoned car.

Martínez had been in close touch with Luis Ángel Borboa Canchola, a former Agua Prieta municipal police officer who was abducted in similar circumstances on 13 March. Investigators have not yet established a motive for Martínez’s abduction but they do not rule out the possibility that it was the work of a crime organisation.

His abduction comes 10 days after the murder of Televisa correspondent Amado Ramírez in the southern city of Acapulco. Both cases have come at a time of major operations against drug trafficking. On the day of Martínez’s abduction, the federal authorities arrested 100 policemen suspected of corruption and working with organised crime. Similar allegations have been made against aides of the governor of Sonora.

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