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Mexico5 May 2009

Journalist at odds with local officials gunned down in Durango state

Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to shed light on all aspects of journalist Carlos Ortega Melo Samper’s fatal shooting outside his home in Santa Maria del Oro, a town in the northern state of Durango, on 3 May. Municipal officials were known to have been extremely irked by Ortega’s columns for the Tiempo de Durango newspaper.

“It is tragically symbolic that Ortega was gunned down on 3 May, a day dedicated to press freedom throughout the world, in what is now the western hemisphere’s most dangerous country for journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said, voicing its support for Ortega’s family and colleagues.

“We join the Tiempo de Durango’s management in calling for a proper investigation into this murder and we would also like to know why the Durango state judicial authorities paid no attention to the threats that Ortega had received.”

The Tiempo de Durango’s management told Reporters Without Borders that Ortega was intercepted by four men travelling in two vehicles as he was about to enter his home on the afternoon of 3 May. They tried to kidnap him and, when he resisted, they shot him twice.

Ortega, who was also a lawyer, had criticised the local authorities about the poor hygiene in the municipal abattoir in a column on 28 April. It led to a serious altercation the next day with Mayor Martín Silvestre Herrera and the municipal official in charge of federal programmes, Juan Manuel Calderón Guzmán. Ortega also accused Calderón of defrauding the Durango Union of Livestock Breeders.

The murder motive has yet to be established but the Tiempo de Durango’s management has urged the authorities not to neglect the possibility that he was killed because of his articles. His car was set on fire while parked outside his home two months ago, but the local representative of the public prosecutor’s department, Salvador Flores Triana, refused to order an investigation.

The Durango state prosecutor’s office has just transferred Flores, replacing him by Héctor Pérez Martinez, who is now in charge of investigating the Ortega murder.

Ortega had worked for the Tiempo de Durango for the past year, writing an often caustic column. He had previously written for El Siglo de Durango, another regional daily, for five years. According to the tally kept by the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH), he is the 48th journalist to be murdered in Mexico since 2000, and the third since the start of 2009.

Photo : El Siglo de Durango

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