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Mexico6 March 2009

Suspect arrested in photographer’s murder but motive vague

A man, Mario Cereso Barrera, has reportedly confessed to the 13 February fatal shooting of photographer Jean Paul Ibarra of the regional daily El Correo in Iguala, in the southern state of Guerrero. He was arrested on 26 February although the authorities did not announce his arrest until 2 March.

According to the police, Cereso claimed that he learned Ibarra’s name and profession from the newspapers. The motive Cereso gave was vague. He said Ibarra harassed him and took a photo of him in order to intimidate him after buying two earrings from him and then discovering they were not gold. As a result, Cereso said he decided to kill him.

“We hope this arrest results in Ibarra’s murder being solved,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But we view it with caution as several questions remain unanswered. How is that Cereso claims he learned of Ibarra’s identity from the newspapers if he already knew him? Why did the police wait four days before announcing his arrest? Why is the colour of the motorcycle supposedly used by the killer, which the police showed to the press, different from the colour of the motorcycle described just after the killing? And finally, what has become of the person who was driving the motorcycle for the gunman?”

The newspaper Diario 21 has meanwhile denied that it employed the woman, Yenny Yuliana Marchán, who was with Ibarra when he was murdered.

16.02.2008 - Guerrero state photographer killed in shooting, colleague wounded

Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that photographer Jean Paul Ibarra of the local daily El Correo was killed and reporter Yenny Yuliana Marchán of the regional daily Diario 21 was injured in a shooting attack on 13 February in Iguala, in the southern state of Guerrero. Both worked for the crime section of their respective newspapers.

“We express our full support for Ibarra’s relatives and colleagues and we call for Marchán to be given adequate protection when she leaves hospital,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The special prosecutor’s office that was created in February 2006 to deal with crimes of violence against the press needs additional resources. We think the help of expert investigators should be requested through the Inter-American system.”

The press freedom organisation added: “As long as all the murders of journalists continue to go unpunished in Mexico, journalists will continue to fall victim to this bloodshed.”

Ibarra, 33, and Marchán, 22, had been sent by their newspapers to the Iguala forensic medical centre following an accident that had occurred earlier that afternoon on the road between Iguala and Chilpancingo, the Guerrero state capital.

Marchán was riding pillion on Ibarra’s motorcycle when five shots were fired at them with a 45-calibre pistol from another motorcycle that drew alongside. Hit in the chest and shoulder, Ibarra lost control of his motorcycle. Marchán was hit in the legs. Ibarra was shot again in the head as he lay on the ground.

The motive for the attack is still unknown. Diario 21 said Marchán, who is hospitalised in a serious condition, was questioned by police at the hospital the next day.

The attack is typical of the climate of extreme violence verging on warfare that prevails in certain regions of the country, especially since President Felipe Calderón launched a major offensive against drug trafficking in 2006. The violence, which is not always drug related, has traditionally been limited to the northern border region and the Gulf of Mexico but it has also been increasing in the more central states such as Michoacán, Guerrero and Oaxaca.

Ibarra’s death brings to 46 the number of journalists murdered in Mexico since 2000 in connection with their work or for unknown reasons, according to the tally of the National Commission for Human rights (CNDH). Eight others have gone missing since 2003. The victims have included leading TV reporters such as Amado Ramírez of the national TV station Televisa, who was gunned down in Acapulco (in Guerrero state) on 6 April 2007. Total or partial impunity has prevailed in all of these cases.

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