Mexican reporter killed in another case unlikely to be solved

Journalists protest vigil regina martinez veracruz

MEXICO CITY -- If the long list of unsolved murders of journalists in Mexico offers any indication, there is little likelihood that justice will be reached in the weekend death of magazine reporter Regina Martinez.

Little chance of a credible arrest. Little chance of charges or a successful prosecution for her killer or killers.

The 49-year-old journalist was found dead in her home in the state of Veracruz on Saturday, beaten and strangled to death. She was a correspondent for the national investigative news magazine Proceso and based in Xalapa, the capital of a coastal state where violence and corresponding impunity are widespread.

A neighbor called police after noticing Martinez's front door was left open since morning. The day before, Martinez was reporting on municipal police officers arrested for alleged links to organized crime. Throughout her career, Martinez reported on organized crime and corruption, including a 2007 case of the rape and killing of a indigenous woman at the hands of Mexican soldiers (link in Spanish).

Regina martinezMartinez, a native of the state she covered, is at least the fourth journalist killed in Veracruz since Gov. Javier Duarte took office in late 2010, reports have noted.

Last year, a newspaper columnist and his wife and son were shot to death during an ambush in their home. A woman covering crime in the port of Veracruz was found decapitated. And a rural Veracruz columnist was kidnapped in March and found dead in May.

All those cases remain unsolved, said Mike O'Connor, a representative in Mexico for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which says that more than 40 journalists have been killed or have disappeared throughout the country since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006.

The Duarte administration said it was investigating Martinez's murder and formed a special commission Sunday that includes the participation of Proceso's founder, Julio Scherer. But "given the history, there's very little likelihood that there will be justice in this case," O'Connor said.

Already, Veracruz prosecutors said one line of investigation is that Martinez may have been killed in a robbery. Two cellphones, a laptop computer and plasma television screen were stolen, they said.

"That is how they are going to minimize the gravity of this murder," Jose Gil Olmos, a fellow reporter for Proceso, said in an interview on Monday. "It is a message of power and impunity. That is the lesson of this act."

Calls made to the Veracruz state government were not returned.

Nationally, efforts to protect news gatherers during 5-1/2 years of high drug violence have been feeble or ineffective. The post of special federal prosecutor to investigate crimes against "freedom of expression" was created in 2006. But it has mainly operated as a revolving door for bureaucrats, and closed no significant cases. The latest official tapped to head the post was appointed in February.

On Monday, as previously scheduled, the lower house of Congress unanimously passed legislation meant to further help protect reporters (link in Spanish). Martinez's killing was memorialized from the chamber's floor with a minute of silence. But press advocates, in exasperation, said the basic problem remains. Killers are rarely brought to justice.

"There is simulation by the state," said Antonio Martinez, spokesman for Articulo 19, a free-speech advocacy group. "We have more than enough mechanisms for protection. Nevertheless, they fail to attack the impunity."

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-- Daniel Hernandez

Photos, from top: Journalists embrace during a demonstration in Mexico City condemning the killing of fellow journalist Regina Martinez in Veracruz on Saturday (Credit: Marco Ugarte / Associated Press);  Martinez, in an undated photograph (Revista Proceso).

 
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