Mexico City crit­i­cized in case of slain jour­nal­ist

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY KATHER­INE COR­CO­RAN AND AL­BERTO ARCE

Mexico City of­fi­cials said Sun­day they are pur­su­ing all lines of in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the killing of a pho­to­jour­nal­ist whose body was found along with four slain women in the cap­i­tal, where he had fled be­cause of ha­rass­ment in the state he cov­ered.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors are fol­low­ing pro­to­cols for crimes against jour­nal­ists and crimes against women, as well as look­ing at rob­bery as a pos­si­ble mo­tive, Mexico City pros­e­cu­tor Rodolfo Rios Garza said in news con­fer­ence.

But jour­nal­ism and hu­man rights ac­tivists were alarmed by Rios’ com­ments, say­ing Ruben Espinosa’s work and the threats that drove him out of the Gulf Coast state of Ver­acruz should be the main line of in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He had worked in the state for eight years, in­clud­ing for prom­i­nent news­magazine Pro­ceso, be­fore flee­ing to Mexico City.

Rios never ac­knowl­edged that Espinosa was seek­ing refuge in Mexico City, say­ing he came to the cap­i­tal for “pro­fes­sional op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

When deal­ing with jour­nal­ists’ killings, author­i­ties in Mexico are of­ten quick to dis­card their work as a mo­tive, even though the coun­try is the most dan­ger­ous in Latin Amer­ica for re­porters. In large swaths of the coun­try, crime and cor­rup­tion are never re­ported, as the media has been bought or in­tim­i­dated into si­lence.

“I feel there is a dis­dain to­ward in­ves­ti­gat­ing the jour­nal­is­tic mo­tives or even mo­tives that had to do with his dis­place­ment,” said Dario Ramirez, di­rec­tor of the Ar­ti­cle 19 free press ad­vo­cacy group. “The is­sue is that he was at risk and af­ter a month he was as­sas­si­nated. These are co­in­ci­dences that can’t be dis­carded by say­ing he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Re­porters at the news con­fer­ence asked if the events that drove Espinosa into self-ex­ile in June were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated and whether Ver­acruz Gov. Javier Duarte would be asked to give a de­po­si­tion.

Rios only re­peated that all lines of in­ves­ti­ga­tion are be­ing pur­sued, in­clud­ing his work as a jour­nal­ist in Ver­acruz.

Espinosa had said in in­ter­views that he was ha­rassed over sev­eral years while cov­er­ing events in Ver­acruz, in­clud­ing once be­ing told to stop tak­ing photos of stu­dents de­tained dur­ing a protest in 2012, the same year another Pro­ceso jour­nal­ist, Regina Martinez, was killed. Her role as an in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist writ­ing about gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion was never con­sid­ered as a mo­tive for her killing. In­stead, state of­fi­cials said it was rob­bery.

“Stop tak­ing photos if you don’t want to end up like Regina,” Espinosa said he was told by a gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive con­trol­ling the crowd.

Another time, Espinosa said Duarte of­fered him money to drop a com­plaint af­ter he was beaten by state po­lice, ac­cord­ing to Pro­ceso mag­a­zine. He re­fused.

Espinosa fled the cap­i­tal, Xalapa, in June af­ter he said that un­known peo­ple were fol­low­ing him, tak­ing his pho­to­graph and ha­rass­ing him out­side his home. A few days ear­lier, he had placed a plaque at a Xalapa plaza re­nam­ing it “Regina Martinez Plaza” as a protest to the gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of her case.

“We’re say­ing loud and clear that we want Duarte in jail, that no more jour­nal­ists, not a sin­gle one, can be as­sas­si­nated in Ver­acruz,” said Nef­tali Grana­dos, a Ver­acruz stu­dent speak­ing at a protest rally in Mexico City that drew about 200 peo­ple.

Duarte is­sued a state­ment Sun­day say­ing he lamented the “aber­rant” killings in Mexico City and is con­fi­dent that pros­e­cu­tors will solve the case as soon as pos­si­ble.

AP

Jour­nal­ists hold a late-night vigil to protest against the latest mur­der of a fel­low jour­nal­ist in Ver­acruz, Mexico, Satur­day Aug. 1.

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