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Mexico15 February 2008

Kidnap fears over journalist missing in Michoacán state

Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about Mauricio Estrada Zamora, of the regional daily La Opinión de Apatzingán, who went missing in Michoacán state in the south-west on 12 February, in circumstances suggesting he may well have been kidnapped.

Estrada Zamora, 38, a crime specialist with the paper for five years, left work to return home at around 11pm but never arrived. The same night his car was found by police at Peña Colorada, in the neighbouring municipality of Buenavista. Staff at the newspaper told Reporters Without Borders that the vehicle had its lights on and its doors open.

After the journalist’s family contacted the authorities and the daily, La Opinión de Michoacán, reported his disappearance, the state prosecutor’s office sent a special anti-kidnapping police unit and a helicopter to the area.

La Opinión de Apatzingán in its 14 February edition accused an agent of the Federal Investigation Agency nicknamed “El Diablo” (the Devil), but whose real name is unknown, of being behind the journalist’s abduction. The paper said that Estrada had written a report about the police officer three weeks earlier, which had led to a dispute between them. The prosecutor’s office in Michoacán state said that the agent had in the meantime been transferred to the federal capital. The paper has also called for the intervention of the Prosecutor-General of the Republic, Eduardo Medina Mora.

“Michoacán state, which is mired in criminality and drug-trafficking, has a dismal record of attacks against the media” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “We hope that the federal justice ministry, which has been brought into the case by colleagues of Mauricio Estrada Zamora, will quickly intervene and contribute to the investigation. The report that the journalist had a disagreement with a police office is an important aspect, which should be checked by an investigation within the police service. We express our full support to the family and colleagues of the missing journalist”, It added.

The disappearance of Mauricio Estrada Zamora brings to eight the number of journalists missing in Mexico since 2000. Among them is José Antonio García Apac, editor of the regional weekly Ecos de la Cuenca, who disappeared without trace in similar circumstances while driving his car on 20 November 2006. None of the cases has been solved. Also unresolved is the murder in the same state of Gerardo Israel García Pimentel, of the daily La Opinión de Michoacán, who was shot dead in Uruapán on 8 December 2007.

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