Mexico's disappearing journalists

Rodolfo Rincon went missing weeks ago to become, what many fear, the latest journalist to fall foul of the gangsters.

    Rodolfo Rincon has not been seen since he left
    his newspaper's office on January 20

    On January 20th Rodolfo Rincón, a newspaper reporter in Villahermosa in southeast Mexico, left his office after finishing writing his latest report on drug trafficking.

    Rincón has not been seen since. Now his friends and family say they fear that he may have become the latest Mexican journalist to fall foul of the country's increasingly powerful gangsters.

    "I know that where ever they have him, he would not like to see me this way. Our home is filled with sorrow. The worst thing is not knowing what happened to Rodolfo," Olivia Alaniz Cornelio, his wife, told Al Jazeera's Franc Contreras.

    Mexico is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. A report from the Committee to Protect Journalists has said that more are killed in Mexico than any other country in Latin America.

    Nine journalists were killed during 2006, while three others went missing and more than 100 were physically assaulted.

    On the day of his disappearance, Rincón had published an investigative article on local drug trafficking rings in which he had named several suspects and also completed an articles on bank hold-ups.

    "Many of the journalists at our newspaper who cover crime have considered resigning. Why? Because they feel their own lives are at risk," said Roberto Cuitlahuac, the crime editor of Tabasco Hoy, the daily newspaper where Rincón worked.

    Anonymous threats

    A source at Tabasco Hoy told the Committee to Protect Journalists, an organisation which defends press freedom, that Rincón had received anonymous telephone threats last year, but had not seemed worried by them.

    Journalists in danger -2006
    • 9 killed
    • 3 disappeared
    • 100 physically attacked
    Reporters Without Borders, a campaign group for press freedom, called on the federal and local authorities to step up their investigation into the disappearance.

    "Recent articles by Rodolfo Rincón Taracena point to a link between his disappearance and his professional activities", a statement from the group said. "The federal and Tabasco state authorities must rapidly join forces to find this journalist safe and well."

    The police chief in Tabasco state has promised to do everything possible to resolve the case but many people doubt there will be any positive results as very few crimes against journalists are solved and there are widespread allegations of corruption.

    A year ago a federal special prosecutor's office to protect journalists and bring cases against those that harm them was set up. However, the special prosecutor recently resigned leaving media associations concerned that the crimes will go unpunished.

    "We had hoped that government officials would investigate murders and disappearances of journalists. Now we're not sure what will happen. And there's a big question mark hanging over press freedom here," Balbina Flores, a spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders, told Al Jazeera.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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