While it has been noted that 2006 was the Deadliest Year In Journalism, most of the focus has been on Iraq, and rightly so. However, it was also a particularly dangerous year for journalists south of the (US) border, as noted by members of the Federation of Latin American and Caribbean Journalists (FEPALC). More after the jump.
Gathered for their Regional Assembly on November 1st in Caracas, Venezuela, members of the FEPALC expressed deep concern over the increasing number of deaths of media workers in the region (mostly murdered) and the fact that few of these murders have been clarified:
According to the follow up of the cases carried out by FEPALC Human Rights Secretary and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in 2005 fourteen media workers lost their lives and two disappeared. However, from January to October 2006 both institutions have documented and denounced thirty two (32) journalists murdered and two (2) colleagues are missing, murders cases in Guyana (6), Mexico (5), Venezuela (4), Colombia (4), Dominican Republic (3) and Brazil (3) have been highlighted. The increase of aggressions is evident and alarming.
The analysis of the attacks against the life of media workers reveals in most cases of journalists killed there is a link to their professional activity behind the murders and the attackers belong to organized delinquency, specifically to drug trafficking and also to diverse political actors.
We are in the same manner concerned about the governments’ incapacity and political unwillingness to guarantee the right to life and the right to carry out the journalistic duty proven by the fact that most crimes remain in impunity, have not been clarified and intellectual and material authors of the crimes are unpunished.
Not surprisingly, Mexico was singled out in an updated news item as the most dangerous Latin American country in which to carry out reporting about crime and corruption. Citing a preliminary copy of the Annual Report of the International Federation of Journalists, La Jornada reports (in Spanish) that 10 investigative journalists were assassinated in Mexico during 2006, placing that country ahead of Colombia and Venezuela.
A release by the International Federation of Journalists dated November 17th highlights three of the killings:
The International Federation of Journalists is calling on the Mexican government to offer better protection of media workers after newspaper editor José Manuel Nava Sánchez was found stabbed to death in his apartment in Mexico City.
He is the third journalist who has been killed in Mexico in the last 21 days. (...)
Nava Sánchez, 53, was the the former editor of the Mexican newspaper Excélsior. He was found dead on Thursday by his cleaning lady in his living room. There were no signs of a break-in or robbery, according to the preliminary investigation.
On November 10, Misael Tamayo Hernandez, editor of El Despertar de la Costa, was found dead in a hotel room in Zihuatanejo.
His body was found nearly naked, on his back with his hands tied behind his back and covered only with a sheet. Investigators found three puncture marks on his body, one in his right hand and two others in a forearm. The cause of death was a heart attack, forensic investigators said.
Tamayo Hernandez, who was well-respected in the local journalism community, published a story on Thursday alleging that city officials gave illegal discounts on water services to individuals and businesses. The same edition also contained stories on organized crime.
On October 28, Bradly Will, a freelance journalist based in New York, was one of three people killed when gunmen opened fire on protesters during a demonstration in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
Kossacks will be familiar with Bradly Will's case from previous diaries like this one.
The International Federation of Journalists gives a partial chronology (in Spanish) of sixteen of the deaths during the tragic year of 2006 (my translation to English with the aid of Google's online translator):
Radio journalist Jose Valdés was stabbed in the city of Sabinas bordering Texas. Pilar Cortázar, a colleague and friend of the victim, indicated narcotics traffickers were likely responsible based on the fact that Valdés was investigating connections between the drug mafias and the military charged precisely with combating narcotics.
Journalist Ronald Waddell was assassinated in Subryanville. The colleague, who was in charge of a program in the television channel HBTV, was executed by hitmen when he arrived at his address in Lot 2 at Sea Glimpse, Subryanville. Wedell took 13 hits of bullet that destroyed back, legs and face.
Enrique Galeano, 51 years of age, Azotey Radio in Horqueta (Department of Conception, Center) is missing. The journalist was under police safekeeping because of death threats received a month before he disappeared.
Journalist Jose Luis Leon Desiderio, of Radio Minutera, was found assassinated in Guayaquil, of a shot to the head, near his home in the neighborhood of Bastión Popular . According to information published in the newspaper The Universe of Ecuador, Leon had received anonymous calls warning that if he continued denouncing gang violence, specifically of the district of Bastión Popular where he lived and the lack of police action in Guayaquil, there would be serious consequences.
Also falling victim on this date, was the Brazilian journalist Jose Késsio, who worked as announcer at radio Cerro Córa, in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero, department of Amambay (Paraguay). According to some press reports, investigations would tie this crime with the mafia.
Pablo Federico Mansilla, young journalist of 21 years of age, was assassinated by a stab to the chest when he returned to his house in La Matanza, located in the western part of greater Buenos Aires. Mansilla worked as producer of Channel 26 TV and as a correspondent of the news program of that station. It was first considered a robbery since the victim was missing his shoes and a cellular telephone. Nevertheless, colleagues of the victim requested that police that investigate the crime, since the stolen effects appeared at one hundred meters of the body, in an apparent maneuver of distraction.
Raul Suárez Sandoval, independent and collaborating photographer of newspapers La Hora Durandeña y La Prensa de Durán was shot dead in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Also that day but in Mexico, the journalists Ramiro Telles Contreras, who worked at 95,7 FM Laredo, Taumalipas, and graphics correspondent of the newspaper "La Voz", Jaime Arturo Olvera Bravo, of La Piedad, Michoacán were assasinated. Telles Contreras was shot eleven times when he left in his light truck for work, whereas Olvera Bravo was assassinated by one shot when getting ready to board a bus in proximity of his home with his five year old son.
Radio journalist, Gustavo Rojas Gabaló, passed away after convalescing for a month and a half after being shot by an unidentified subject on February 4, 2006 at a supermarket in the city of Montería, province of Córdoba. Investigations have still not shed light of the reason for the homicide. Rojas, on his radio program The Show of El Gaba, made denunciations against the political class of Córdoba, but never had received a threat linked to the nature of his work.
In the state of Chiapas, Mexico, journalist Rosendo Pardo Ozuna, who worked in the newspaper "the Voice of the Southeastern" was killed. He was also a university professor at the University of Monterrey. The journalist was a harsh critic of the municipal government of Tuxtla Gutiérrez headed by the mayor Juan Sabines Guerrero.
Jorge Aguirre, graphics reporter of the Capriles Chain, died after being wounded by bullet by a supposed police functionary in the environs of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), in Caracas. This occured when he tried to photograph a student manifestation at UCV.
Thirty year old Johnny Martinez, director of a newspaper in the city of San Cristóbal of Dominican Republic, was assassinated upon receiving twenty-two stabs. The body of the young journalist was found to borders of the river Nigua the past Good Friday. Leaders of the Dominican School of Journalists (CDP) assume that the crime is linked with sectors of the drug trade. Nevertheless, relatives and colleagues await the official version by the authorities.
Journalist Jairo Muñoz, of the regional news station Noti 5, died buried by an avalanche in the locality of Bendiciones, jurisdiction of the municipality the Dagua, in the Cauca Valley. The Camaraman Jorge Iván Adarves, who was with Muñoz to assist him in carrying out his duties, said: "I felt the earth open up at the same moment a piece of the mountain fell off and covered Jairo Muñoz and 39 other people".
Manuel Paulino da Silva, director of the newspaper "Hoje Jornal", was assassinated in the coastal city of Guarujá, in the state of Sao Paulo, according to the O.A.S., when several men shot at him while driving. He died when the vehicle hit a wall and caught fire.
Ajuricaba Monassa de Paula, independent journalist and member of the Brazilian Press Association died after being struck by a councilman of the city of Guapirimim, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. According to the O.A.S., the journalist used to question actions by the councilman and the management of the municipality.
Journalist Milton Fabian Gomez, of the station Yumbo Estereo, in Colombia was assassinated. Gomez received several shots from strangers in Yumbo, department of the Cauca Valley. The investigations indicate that the journalist died shortly after being transferred to a local health center. The journalist headed the program Mesa Redonda (Round Table) where political topics were discussed.
The corpse of journalist Enrique Perea Quintanilla, was found after he had gone missing on Tuesday 8 of August. Quintanilla, of 50 years of age, was publisher of the magazine Dos Caras Una Verdad (Two Faces, One Truth), a publication that investigated unsolved crimes. The journalist was found on a road about 15 kilometers from the city of Chihuahua. The authorities presume that the murder of the journalist is tied in with organized crime.