Category: Press Releases, Americas & Caribbean, The Americas, Mexico
By: Vanessa I. Garnica

Long-time Mexican journalist found dead days after abduction

The journalist was taken by armed men as he arrived in his home in Acapulco

Journalists hold photographs of colleagues who have been killed in the last years while covering the news in Mexico, in Mexico City February 23, 2014. Journalists took to the streets several weeks after Gregorio Jimenez de la Cruz, a reporter for the Veracruz state newspaper Notisur y Liberal del Sur, was kidnapped and found buried along with two people. REUTERS/Henry Romero

By: Vanessa I. Garnica

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VIENNA, June 13, 2014 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today urged Mexican authorities to conduct a full investigation into the murder of Mexican journalist Jorge Torres Palacios, whose body was found on June 2, four days after he was kidnapped by his home in Acapulco, Guerrero state. 

The long-time journalist had worked as the spokesman for the Health Office of the Acapulco municipal government but continued writing his own column called “Nothing Personal” for the investigative online and printed publication El Dictamen de Guerrero.

“The International Press Institute (IPI) is saddened by the news of the kidnapping and murder of long-time Mexican journalist Jorge Torres Palacios,” said IPI press freedom manager Barbara Trionfi. “His death represents yet another attack on press freedom in Mexico as Torres continued to be outspoken about corruption affecting the state of Guerrero through his opinion columns. We ask the national authorities in Mexico to mobilise the mechanisms necessary to fully investigate this crime in an effort to send a clear message that attacks against journalists will not be tolerated because of the important function they perform in support of the democratic process.”

Prior to joining the Acapulco Municipal Health Office, Torres had worked for more than 20 years as a journalist for various news outlets, such as Televisa Acapulco, Radio & Televisión de Guerrero (RTG), and the daily Novedades, according to reports.

Due to his position working at a governmental office, Torres would sign his political columns under the pseudonym ‘Serpico’, a reference to the former U.S. police officer Frank Serpico, who became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s for exposing corruption within the New York City Police Department.  El Dictamen del Guerrero published Torres’ last column on June 1 as a tribute to the writer. Once they confirmed the news that his body had been found on June 2, they updated the column to reveal his name.    

During IPI's Mission to Mexico in February 2013, the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto insisted that the federal government took the threat to journalist safety seriously.

However, local press freedom groups are still pressing authorities on the numerous unsolved murders of journalists in Mexico, in particular the assassination of crime reporter Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz, who was kidnapped and killed in February of this year in the state of Veracruz. Shortly after his death, a group of press freedom and human rights organisations released a report strongly criticising the official investigation into Jiménez’s death and emphasising the effect that impunity in such cases had on Mexican journalists.

“The inaction by the government concerning security and justice has a clear and decisive impact on the work that members of the press do on a daily basis,” the report stated.

The organisations, including Periodistas de a Pie, had travelled to Veracruz to investigate the murder of Jiménez,  whom they identified as the latest target of organised crime groups in one of Mexico’s most violent and populous states. Their 87-page report, released in March 2014, analysed the state of the murder investigation using detailed accounts from Jiménez’s family members, friends and officials overseeing the official inquiry. 

In the report, the groups asserted that the authorities leading the investigation into Jiménez’s death had not thoroughly examined the articles he had written relating to violent groups throughout Veracruz, potentially missing one key possible motive for his assassination: namely, his work as a journalist.

Last April, award-winning Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández told IPI that she continues to receive threats due to her investigative work.  Last December, Hernández’s home was stormed by eleven armed men, temporarily seizing a bodyguard that had been assigned to her by the Mexico City government. Since then, Hernández explained, she has not received any security from the Mexican federal protection mechanism for journalists, whose sole purpose is to safeguard journalists who have been threatened.  

“My situation is desperate,” Hernández said. “I continue to do my work as a journalist and continue exposing drug trafficking activities and corruption. They have not been able to silence me because I truly believe in freedom of expression and in the right of the public to be informed,” she continued. “However, the personal cost, emotional and physical, for me and my children, has been very high.”

For more information, contact: 

Vanessa I. Garnica, press freedom adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean, at +43 1512 9011 or vgarnica[@]