05/22/12 – On Friday, May 18, journalist Marco Antonio Ávila García became the sixth member of the media killed in the past month in Mexico, a staggeringly high number in such a short period of time. Ávila García’s body was found in a plastic bag just outside the city of Empalme, Sonora, a day after witnesses reported he was kidnapped by three masked gunmen at a car wash in Ciudad Obregón. Authorities said that a message from the perpetrators accompanied the body, though they did not say what the text read. Ávila García (39) was a reporter at newspaper outlets El Regional de Sonora and Diario Sonora de la Tarde, where he specifically covered organized crime and police beats. He was married with three young children.
While authorities investigate the murder, media networks and colleagues of the slain journalist have protested his death and demanded that the perpetrators be brought to justice. Since Friday’s discovery, members of the Sonoran Group of Journalists (Foro Sonorense de Periodistas) have worn black ribbons or ties in his honor and as a sign of mourning for their friend and co-worker. “It’s black for the pain of losing a colleague, but also because it’s the color that represents the stain or shadow cast on our ability to fulfill our work as journalists,” explained the group. Others continue to call attention to the very high levels of impunity that criminals face in Mexico, and demand that authorities not allow yet another case to slip away unpunished.
Ávila García’s death makes him the seventh journalist killed in Mexico in 2012 alone. The country is known to be one of the most dangerous places in the world for members of the media to work, and despite some governmental efforts to better protect journalists, such as the approved amendment in March that made crimes against media a federal offense, the numbers continue to increase. Consequently, some news outlets turn to self-censorship to avoid being targets of future violence, like how El Mañana in Tamaulipas recently announced that it would no longer publish stories on organized crime after its offices were hit with grenades and bullets on May 11. To read more about the recent string of violence against journalists in Mexico, click here.