3 journalists slain in east Mexican state

3 journalists slain in east Mexican state

Credit: AP

Police remove from a canal plastic bags containing the dismembered bodies of four people in Boca del Rio, Mexico, Thursday, May 3, 2012. The bodies were found dumped together in plastic bags by a canal in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz on Thursday, less than a week after the killing of a reporter for an investigative newsmagazine. At least three of the slain had worked as news photographers. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

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by E. EDUARDO CASTILLO

KMOV.com

Posted on May 3, 2012 at 4:30 PM

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Three men who had worked as news photographers were found slain and dumped together in plastic bags by a canal in the eastern Mexico state of Veracruz on Thursday, less than a week after the killing in the same state of a reporter for an investigative newsmagazine, officials and colleagues said.

Press advocates called for immediate government action to halt a wave of attacks that has killed at least six current and former reporters and photographers in Veracruz over the last year, spawning an atmosphere of terror and self-censorship among journalists.

The problem isn't confined to Veracruz. Mexico is one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists, with reporters and photographers suffering a rising number of attacks in recent years as the country grapples with tens of thousands of killings, kidnappings and extortion against the backdrop of a militarized government offensive against drug cartels.

The latest killings came in Boca del Rio, a town near the port city of Veracruz where police found the dismembered bodies of four people Thursday, the Veracruz state Attorney General's Office said.

One victim was identified as Guillermo Luna Varela, photographer for the news website http://www.veracruznews.com.mx . Another was identified as Gabriel Huge, who the director of the website said had been working as a photojournalist in the area. State officials said the third victim was Esteban Rodriguez, who was a local newspaper photographer until last year, when he quit to work as a welder. The fourth victim was Luna's girlfriend, Irasema Becerra, state prosecutors said.

The bodies were found after passers-by spotted four suspicious black plastic bags near a wastewater canal, five days after the discovery of the corpse of Regina Martinez, a correspondent for the national magazine Proceso who often wrote about drug trafficking.

The state Attorney General's Office has said Martinez's body was found in the bathroom of her house in Xalapa, Veracruz, and authorities believe she was murdered. The statement said her body showed signs of "blows to the head and body" and initial evidence suggested she died of asphyxiation.

Veracruznews director Martin Lara said Luna covered crime news for the Internet news agency and described the victim as a peaceful young man and "a good guy."

Lara that last year Luna was frightened so badly by threats that he left the state and stopped working for Veracruznews for two months. Lara declined to provide details. He said Luna was last seen Wednesday afternoon.

Journalist groups have long urged Mexico's government to do something about rising violence aimed at news workers.

"Veracruz has seen a wave of lethal anti-press violence that is sowing widespread fear and self-censorship. Mexican authorities must act now to end the deadly cycle of impunity in crimes against the press," said Carlos Lauria, senior program coordinator for the Americas for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In June 2011, Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, a columnist and editorial director for the news agency Notiver, was shot to death in Veracruz along with his wife and one of his children. A month later, Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, a police reporter for Notiver, was found with her throat cut in the state.

None of the cases has been resolved.

Mexico's human rights commission says 74 media workers were slain from 2000 to 2011. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says 51 were killed in that time.

Veracruz has been one of the states worst hit by drug-related violence, much of it related to a brutal war between the paramilitary Zetas drug cartel and New Generation, a cartel based in the western state of Jalisco and allied with the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

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