Human Rights and Civil Society

Second Durango reporter murdered in less than a month

Eliseo Barrón Hernández, reporter for the newspaper La Opinion in Torreón, Coahuila, was found dead in a canal wrapped in plastic May 26, with at least 10 bullet wounds. He had been kidnapped the previous evening from his Durango home in front of his wife and two children. Five men have been apprehended in connection with the murder.

Barrón Hernández, who covered the police beat for La Opinión, had recently reported on police corruption in Torreón. His report was followed by the firing of 302 police officers and the investigation of at least 20 more in mid-May.

In related news, the case of another journalist murdered in Durango earlier in May was turned over to the special prosecutor for crimes against journalists in the Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR). Carlos Ortega Melo Samper, a reporter for the Durango daily Tiempo was shot three times on May 3. Like Barrón Hernández, Ortega had reported on municipal police corruption prior to his death. In the weeks leading up to his murder, his home had been shot at, and he had an altercation with the mayor of his town and a police officer. He wrote a note three days before his death blaming three local officials should something happen to him.

Less than two weeks before Barrón Hernández’s murder, the Director-General of UNESCO condemned the murder of Carlos Ortega Melo Samper, warning that the impunity surrounding murders of journalists in Mexico would only lead to more attacks on press freedom in the country. UNESCO echoed its condemnation for the killing of Barrón Hernández. Perhaps in response to such outcries from UNESCO and continued pressure from media watch groups like Reporters Without Borders, the Mexican government offered up to a US$375,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Barrón Hernandez’s killers. The reward was the first of its kind in recent memory.

A military patrol in the Durango municipality of Tlahualilo apprehended five armed men on June 12. One of the detained, a presumed Zeta, has reportedly admitted to participating in Barrón Hernández’s murder, calling it a “lesson” to journalists in the area in order to discourage them from reporting on criminal activities.

According to the International Federation of Journalists, five reporters have been murdered in Mexico so far this year. 49 have been killed since 2000, according to the organization.

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

“Director-General condemns murder of Mexican journalist Carlos Ortega Melo Samper.” UNESCO Press Release May 18, 2009.
Barrón, Eliseo. “302 policías son dados de baja en Torreón.” Milenio May 21, 2009.
“Asesinado el quinto periodista mexicano en 2009. La FIP se interroga por la falta de verdadera reaccieon de las autoridades.”
Federación Internacional de Periodistas May 27, 2009.
Castillo García, Gustavo. “Ofrecen $5 milliones por asesinos de periodista.” La Jornada May 29, 2009.
“Zeta detenido confiesa homicidio de reportero.” El Universal June 13, 2009.

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