02/17/16 (written by kheinle) – The death of journalist Anabel Flores Salazar in Veracruz has kept the spotlight on Mexico and the Peña Nieto administration, particularly regarding the government’s failure to protect journalists. Flores was abducted from her home in Veracruz in the early morning hours of Monday, February 8 by assailants dressed in military uniforms who claimed to have a warrant for Flores’ arrest, reports Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Her body was discovered in Puebla the day after.
Anabel Flores Salazar was a crime reporter for El Sol de Orizaba newspaper. Crime reporters are often the media workers that cartels and gangs target out of retaliation for information or a story being published. In addition, there was speculation that Flores may have had an alleged connection with a member of an organized crime group. According to the Veracruz State Government, in August 2014, Flores was investigated for having ties to Víctor Osorio Santacruz, “El Pantera,” an alleged member of Los Zetas. Flores’ family denies it, writes CPJ, saying she was simply having dinner at the same restaurant El Pantera was dining when he was arrested.
Regardless, Anabel Flores Salazar’s alleged murderer, Josele Márquez Balderas, “El Chichi,” of Los Zetas, has been identified and detained. El Chichi controlled Orizaba and Córdoba in Veracruz, the territories Flores covered as a reporter. The suspect was actually detained along with six other gang members one week before Flores was kidnapped, though he is thought to have orchestrated Flores’ murder from behind bars. Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte took to Twitter to show the alleged connection between Flores and El Chichi, re-circulating a message Flores had posted under a pseudo name to report on El Chichi’s arrest and fallout. El Chichi was initially arrested for his lead role in the 2011 attack on the offices of a daily newspaper in Córdoba, El Buen Tono. Following the connection to Flores, El Chichi was transferred from the medium security prison, La Toma, in Veracruz to the maximum-security prison, Ceferso, in Jalisco.
Governor Duarte continued on Twitter after El Chichi’s transfer, highlighting the risk journalists face in Veracruz at the hands of organized crime groups. “The enemy in #Veracruz for journalism and freedom of speech is organized crime,” he posted. “Except for the case of [slain journalist] Regina Martínez,” he continued, “the other cases where there have been journalists killed in #Veracruz have been done by organized crime.”
Governor Duarte’s posts drive home the reality that Veracruz, let alone Mexico as a whole, is one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work in the world. According to Committee to Protect Journalists, including Flores’ death, “at least 12 journalists have been murdered in Veracruz since Javier Duarte de Ochoa became governor in 2010. Three more have disappeared, their whereabouts unknown.” The growing numbers coupled with the impunity the majority of the perpetrators have faced have led to calls for Governor Duarte’s resignation, including from CPJ’s Senior America’s Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. In an article published after Flores’ death, Lauría exclaims, “Gov. Duarte has a deplorable record when it comes to investigating crimes against journalists. The majority of [such] cases have never been resolved.” He continues, “The government of Veracruz [has a] tendency to minimize any relationship between the murders and the journalistic work of the victims.” Flores’ death thus brings to the surface the dangers journalists face in Mexico, particularly in Veracruz, and the impunity that often follows.
Mexico is the sixth deadliest country in the world in 2015 for journalists, with four media workers murdered in the year out of 49 worldwide, according to CPJ. Only France (8 journalists), Brazil (6), South Sudan (5) Bangladesh (5), and Iraq (5) had more. Meanwhile, Justice in Mexico’s ongoing project, Memoria, recorded at least 12 journalists killed in Mexico in 2015. Unlike CPJ’s data, not all were necessarily killed because of their occupation working in news and media.
“Memoria.” Justice in Mexico. Last accessed February 16, 2016.