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Friday, 14 October 2011

UPDATE – Prosecutor: Robbery Motive for Murder of Female Journalists in Mexico City

Authorities Detain Two Men Who Reportedly Confessed to Crime 

By: Steven M. Ellis and Mariela Hoyer Guerrero

Mexican journalist Ana Marcela Yarce (L) and Rocio Gonzalez Trapaga are seen in this undated file photo. Mexican authorities are investigating the murder of Yarce and Gonzalez whose bodies were found in a park in the south of Mexico City on Thursday. Dozens of journalists have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico in the past five years. REUTERS/Contralinea/Handout

VIENNA, 14 Oct. 2011 – Mexico City’s chief prosecutor has announced that robbery was the motive in the killings of two female Mexican journalists who were found dead in a park in Mexico City last month, naked, with their hands and feet bound.

Authorities last week said they had arrested two men -- 29-year-old Óscar Yair Quiñones and 26-year-old Lázaro Hernández – who had confessed to the crime.

Spanish news agency EFE reported that Miguel Badillo, the editor of political magazine Contralinea, which Yarce founded, said he accepted the theory that robbery was the motive for the crime, despite initial scepticism.



VIENNA, 2 Sept. 2011 – Two female Mexican journalists were found dead yesterday in a park in Mexico City, naked with their hands and feet bound.

According to the International Press Institute (IPI)’s Death Watch, the killings bring to 10 the number of media workers killed in Mexico this year, causing the country to surpass Iraq as the deadliest in the world for journalists.

Two joggers discovered the bodies of Ana Marcela Yarce Viveros, a veteran journalist and founder of political magazine Contralinea, and freelance reporter Rocio González Trapaga, the Associated Press (AP) reported, and police said the women’s necks bore strangulation marks.

Authorities reportedly offered no motive for the killings, but The Los Angeles Times said that the circumstances followed a pattern of hits ordered by organised crime and drug gangs.

IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “Our condolences go out to the families and colleagues of Ms. Yarce and Ms. González and we urge Mexican authorities to conduct a swift, transparent and thorough investigation into these brutal crimes. We also call on members of the drug cartels to cease and desist from targeting journalists. No one, especially the brave men and women of Mexico’s media, should be put through such horrors for working to uphold the public’s fundamental right to information.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the killings appeared to be the first murders of media employees “in the relative safe harbor” of the nation’s capital city since the beginning of a wave of violence in recent years as government forces battle drug cartels.

The paper said Yarce recently took charge of Contralinea’s public relations department. AP reported that a Contralinea spokesperson said Yarce was not writing any more or leading projects for the magazine, but that other journalists working for the publication had been harassed because of their coverage.

The Los Angeles Times also said that it had received reports that González, a former reporter for dominant TV broadcaster Televisa, had been running a money exchange at the Mexico City airport and had withdrawn a large amount of cash on Wednesday. The paper reported that friends said the women, long-time friends who were both in their 40s, had last been seen having coffee together Wednesday night at a cafe near downtown Mexico City.

The spiralling violence in Mexico led the United States last week to grant political asylum to a Mexican journalist who fled the country. Alejandro Hernández Pacheco, a former cameraman for Televisa who was kidnapped along with three other journalists in the state of Durango by a drug cartel in July 2010, said that he believed his government put him in danger after broadcasting his image on national television after he was freed, AP reported.

Hernández moved last year to the border city of El Paso, Texas, the El Paso Times reported, and he received permission to work in the United States two months ago. The journalist is now working for Telemundo. He said in a press conference earlier this week that he was sad about leaving Mexico, but that he now also felt calm.

Describing his feelings upon receiving an asylum notice on 24 August, which was later made public, he recounted: “When I told my wife, we cried of excitement and joy for over an hour, especially because now our children have security. I felt a peace I had not felt for a long time.”

Hernández’ lawyer, Carlos Spector, told local media in El Paso that the asylum approval shows that the United States recognizes the Mexican government’s incapacity to protect its citizens. Spector’s client is the second Mexican journalist to receive asylum from the United States in the last year.

The country in September 2010 granted asylum to José Luis Aguirre, the editor of digital diary La Polaka. The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas has reported that Ricardo Chávez, a former announcer for Radio Cañón, also has a petition for political asylum pending.

In similar news, the Center reported that Ecuadorian journalist Emilio Palacio, the former opinion editor of El Universo newspaper, told media in his country this week that he had fled Ecuador for Miami following politically-motivated prosecution.

A court in Guayaquil on 20 July sentenced Palacio and three El Universo executives to three years in prison and levied $40 million in fines against the defendants and the publication for allegedly defaming President Rafael Correa in a 6 February article titled “No Lies” which questioned an army raid carried out last year to rescue Correa from striking policemen.

Palacio appealed the sentence, but prosecutors later brought a new criminal charge against him for referring to a state television journalist as a fascist. Palacio said in a letter dated 28 August and spread via Twitter: “I'd have to be blind to not understand that they want me behind bars.”

The president has insisted on pursuing the case and this week published a letter to El Universo employees, who had asked him to drop legal proceedings against the newspaper and its executives.

“I regret the difficult times that you and your families are going through, but … am I the one responsible for this situation, or is it those who used the disguise of ‘free and independent press’ to illegally and illegitimately dump all their hatred on our revolution?” he wrote.