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Mexican magazine says reporter threatened by government officials

April 17, 2013|By Tracy Wilkinson

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico’s leading newsmagazine says one of its investigative reporters has been threatened with kidnapping and possible death by government officials in the coastal state of Veracruz.

Proceso magazine, in a statement posted on its website, said journalist Jorge Carrasco was in Veracruz this week reporting on the killing of another Proceso reporter there when he learned of the threats. (link in Spanish)

“We have received information over the presumed intention of officials and former officials of the Veracruz state government to attack the physical integrity of the journalist,” the magazine said.

The Veracruz government denied the accusations in a separate statement.

The reported threats followed publication in Proceso’s Sunday edition of an article by Carrasco that was critical of Veracruz authorities’ handling of the case of Regina Martinez, the weekly’s correspondent in that state, who was strangled and beaten to death a year ago this month. A judge convicted a semi-homeless junkie of the slaying and sentenced him to 38 years in prison. The man has denied guilt, saying he was tortured by Veracruz authorities into making a confession.

Carrasco exposed numerous holes in the state’s investigation, including questionable evidence and the failure of Veracruz prosecutors to take into account journalistic work by Martinez that angered many of the state’s powerful. The magazine accused state prosecutors of ignoring justice to instead protect the image of Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte, under whose administration more journalists have been killed or gone missing than anywhere else in Mexico.

In its website statement, Proceso said Carrasco learned after publication of the article that several current and former members of Veracruz’s state security apparatus and attorney general’s office held a secret meeting to plan a trumped-up arrest of Carrasco. In case he resisted, the magazine said, the group decided “to do him harm.”

Proceso’s management notified federal authorities, who activated a so-called mechanism for the protection of journalists. The magazine did not go into details, but that probably means Carrasco has been given bodyguards. Other sources familiar with the case say he has gone into hiding.

The magazine’s editors said they notified Duarte of the threats and quoted him denying he had attended any such meetings. A separate statement from the Veracruz government, signed by state attorney general Felipe Amadeo Flores, denied “categorically” what it called “groundless accusations,” saying it was “committed to the free exercise of the journalistic profession.”

In addition to the nine journalists killed and three gone missing since Duarte came to office in 2010, many reporters have fled the state in fear for their safety, taking refuge in Mexico City or abroad. The state has long been controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which returned to the national presidency last year after 12 years.

Proceso is a scrappy, anti-establishment publication that often runs afoul of authorities. Several of its reporters have been threatened in the past, but rarely has it publicized the problem, preferring to handle each matter behind the scenes. This time, however, magazine management decided that security in Veracruz is so tenuous, and that some security forces can no longer be controlled even by the governor, that it had to speak out.

“We believe the threats against Jorge are of extreme seriousness,” Proceso editor Rafael Rodriguez Castañeda told The Times.

Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. Part of the threat comes from violent drug-trafficking gangs that have waged deadly battle with government security forces and with each other. But especially in many of Mexico’s 31 states, local governments also threaten, intimidate or bribe reporters for regional media, insisting they refrain from reporting on violence or other issues that might tarnish the state’s image.

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