A correspondent for the Mexican news magazine Proceso has been found dead inside her home in Veracruz state. Authorities believe the journalist, who often wrote about drug trafficking, was murdered.
Regina Martínez’s body was found by police inside the bathroom of her home in the state capital, Xalapa, and there were signs of heavy blows to her face and body, the state’s attorney general’s office said in a statement. Authorities said initial evidence suggested she died of asphyxiation.
Veracruz, where four journalists were murdered in 2011, is one of Mexico’s most dangerous states for the press, according to CPJ research. The state is a battleground for two organized crime cartels, the Zetas and the Sinaloa, CPJ research shows. Journalists say there is widespread corruption in local government, and in recent months there has been an escalation in violence.
Since 2006, more than 40 journalists have been killed or disappeared in Mexico, according to CPJ research. Due to a mixture of negligence and pervasive corruption among law enforcement officials, particularly at the state level, crimes against the Mexican press are almost entirely unsolved, CPJ research shows. Mexico appeared in 8th place in CPJ’s 2012 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free.
The Globe and Mail editorialized on this issue in its May 1 edition (Mexico must do more to protect its journalists):
Mexico must do more to end this culture of impunity. The Senate’s recent approval of a constitutional amendment to transfer responsibility for prosecuting attacks on the press to federal authorities is an important step forward. Currently, state and municipal authorities are in charge, and they are considered more corrupt. Mexico’s special prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression has not been able to bring even one case to justice. “Writers don’t have armies, banks or bureaucracies, yet we’re still worth killing and putting in jail,” says John Ralston Saul, head of PEN International, which led a delegation to Mexico earlier this year to press for better protections. With World Press Freedom Day this Thursday, what better time to lobby for change?
Mexico is in the throes of a presidential election campaign, and front runner Enrique Pena Nieto, the candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), has said his party will urge state legislatures to support the amendment. To become law, half the state legislatures must sign on. With this change, Mexico’s special prosecutor would be better equipped to carry out his job.
Mexico has made impressive electoral, political and economic reforms in the past decade. But to safeguard its democracy, the country must now turn its attention to judicial and police reforms and show its citizens that those who murder writers will be brought to justice. The country’s progress — and reputation — depend on it.