Human Rights and Civil Society

Journalist investigating official corruption assassinated in Durango

Tiempo de Durango reporter Carlos Ortega Melo Samper was killed by gunmen as they attempted to kidnap him as he was returning to his home in the Santa María El Oro municipality on May 4. Ortega had recently published an article alleging unsanitary working conditions at a local slaughterhouse and police corruption. Four days before he was killed, he sent a letter to the editor of his paper saying that he had been threatened by the mayor of El Oro, Martín Silvestre Herrera, along with two other officials including an agent with the local Public Prosecutor’s Office. His letter was never published.

Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), called on local and federal authorities to cooperate in the investigation of Ortega’s murder, given the nature of his reporting and his accusations of threats made against him by local authorities. According to Ortega’s editor at the Tiempo de Durango Saúl García, the state’s attorney’s office is investigating the murder.

For his part, El Oro’s mayor has denied any involvement in the murder, and has dismissed any possibility of stepping down as mayor while investigations move forward.

According to CPJ’s annual survey Attacks on the Press, Mexico continues to be a dangerous place to practice journalism, with at least 25 journalists killed since 2000, at least 8 as direct retribution for their reporting. Seven more have disappeared since 2005. To date, two have been killed so far this year. CPJ has also been critical of state and local authorities’ effectiveness in investigating crimes against the press. In April, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies passed a bill making such crimes federal offenses, but it has since stalled in the Senate.

From the Justice in Mexico Project’s Monthly News Report: May


“Asesinan a balazos a un periodista en Durango.” La Jornada May 5, 2009.

“Reporter who criticized officials is slain in northern Mexico.” Committee to Protect Journalists May 5, 2009.

Maldonado, Saúl. “Rechaza alcalde de El Oro dimitir por crimen de periodista en Durango.” La Jornada May 6, 2009.

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