Gregorio Jimenez: Murdered Because He Was A Journalist

Protests Increase Over The Killing Of A Reporter

Following the arrest and charge of those allegedly responsible for the crime, protests against the official reaction to the kidnapping, disappearance and death of reporter Gregorio Jimenez did not stop. On the contrary, the indignation and frustration continue to grow among journalists and human rights organizations.

Some of the organizations expressing concern and asking for justice for the slain journalist killed in in the Mexican state of Veracruz are the Inter American Press Association, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists; in Mexico, Periodistas de a Pie and Articulo 19, and in the US the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Reporters Without Borders and Articulo 19 are sending a delegation of journalists to the area to report on the situation.

Their reaction came after Mexican officials claimed that the journalist's murder was the result of a personal "vendetta" between Jimenez and Teresa Hernandez, a neighbor and the owner of a local canteen, over a romantic relationship gone sour between her son and his daughter. They also published confessions by the accused murderers, who claimed that Hernandez had hired and paid them for the crime.

But two daughters of Jimenez testified that Hernandez threatened their father after the reporter published a story about two people that were stabbed outside of her bar, saying that she knows people from the Zetas cartel that will kill Jimenez.

Jimenez' body was found in a shallow grave together with that of Ernesto Ruiz Guillen, a local union leader, and that of an unidentified taxi driver. Ruiz Guillen stood up to organized crime and Jimenez wrote about his struggle twice in the past. The two were also personal friends and Jimenez used to work as photographer for events organized by the union.

And when the kidnappers came for Jimenez, said his family, they identified him by saying: "This is the photographer."

Finally, one of those arrested and accused of the murder said that his confession was forced and obtained through torture.

Protests led on Wednesday to the resignation of Felipe Flores Espinosa, the state of Veracruz Attorney General.

According to an official statement from Governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa, it was for personal reasons. But both Flores Espinosa and Duarte are being targeted by allegations by journalist organizations both in and outside Mexico in the context of the death of Jimenez.

On February 11, six days after he disappeared, Gregorio Jimenez' body was found in a shallow grave in Las Choapas, Veracruz.

Gregorio "Goyo" Jimenez de la Cruz, 42, father of 7 and grandfather of 10, was a crime reporter for the news agency Notisur and the daily El Liberal del Sur. He had been abducted from his home in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico, by a group of masked men.

Since 2000, at least 85 journalists have been killed in the neighboring country and 16 more disappeared.

In 71 percent of cases, the crimes remain unpunished, according to a report by the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico (CNDH) .

Los Angeles daily La Opinion the largest Spanish-language publication in the country, said in its editorial this week that "Mexico is a dangerous country for journalists. The state of Veracruz, led by Governor Javier Duarte, is the best example of reporters lacking protection and armed groups, who intimidate and murder those journalists, going unpunished." The newspaper called for Duarte's resignation and added that "not guaranteeing protection for reporters and not wanting to honestly investigate their murders makes him an accomplice in these homicides."

For a long week after the abduction, journalists mobilized demanding Jimenez to be found safe and sound, chanting "They took him alive, we want him alive." They continued to hope, until his body was found.

Jimenez is at least the tenth journalist killed in Veracruz, Mexico since Governor Duarte took office 38 months ago. Four more are missing, according to the organization Article 19. Veracruz, said CNDH, is the most dangerous state for journalists in Mexico.

And yet Duarte's government claimed that Jimenez died as a consequence of a personal vendetta, and not for his journalistic work.

The reaction of the state government frustrated many journalists in Mexico who now feel that their lives are even more threatened, especially because the work of Jimenez included writing about kidnappings and murders in his area.

Jimenez lived at the center of risk and violence, in a state hit by violence. "He witnessed the destruction of his own community and those surrounding him by organized crime", wrote Ricardo Gonzalez for Article19, an international organization that fights for freedom of the press.

This week, the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists expressed a statement of concern for the situation; condemning the murder, it demanded protection for journalists. It quoted studies showing that in 40% of the cases or violence against journalists, "the government -be it at the Federal, State or Municipal Level- has been identified as the perpetrator." NAHJ demanded from the Mexican government to investigate and punish those responsible for the crime.

The national president of NAHJ, Hugo Balta, demanded a thorough and adequate investigation of the murder by the authorities, so that... journalists who are under threat for doing their job will be protected."

Shortly after the bodies were found, police arrested Teresa Hernandez, the bar owner, and an additional five suspects and accused them of the murder. They were Santos Gonzalez Santiago, Jesus Antonio Perez Herrera, Juan Manuel Rodriguez Hernandez, Gerardo Contreras Hernandez and Jose Luis Marquez Hernandez. It was Marquez who later recanted his confession and said it was obtained through torture.

Finally, journalists from Coatzacoalcos, Jimenez' hometown, demanded the judge in the case to recuse himself since he is the brother of the spokeswoman for the State's governor.

The death of another Mexican journalist for doing his work was going into oblivion and impunity. But the voices of his colleagues are trying to prevent this from happening, once and for all.

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Before You Go

El pueblo despidió al periodista.
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Un momento de oración en las afueras de la casa de Gregorio Jiménez en Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.
Frente al Palacio Municipal. El 11 de febrero, después de seis angustiosos días en que se ignoraba su paradero, se había hallado en una fosa en Las Choapas, Veracruz, el cuerpo sin vida de este periodista de 42 años.
Jiménez, padre de 7 y abuelo de 10, era reportero policiaco en la agencia de noticias Notisur y en el Liberal del Sur de Veracruz. Había sido secuestrado de su casa en Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, México, por un grupo de enmascarados.
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Amigos y familiares consumidos por el luto de la muerte del periodista. Piden seguridad, paz para el trabajo de los reporteros. Protestas en Coatzacoalcos, estado de Veracruz en México.
Familiar del periodista sostiene una foto de Gregorio Jiménez.

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