LISTEN TO TLR’S LATEST PODCAST:
By Will Racke
Mexican authorities announced Monday that they have discovered the remains of a reporter who has been missing since May, marking the seventh journalist to be killed in Mexico in 2017 alone.
Officials in the violence-plagued state of Michoacán said they located the body of Salvador Adame, the director of the local television station 6TV, near the city of Nueva Italia June 14. Adame’s body, which was buried and partially burned, was identified through DNA testing, according to state prosecutor José Godoy.
Mexico is the world’s deadliest country for journalists so far in 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The group says that seven journalists have been killed there “in direct retaliation” for their work.
In one particularly brazen attack, prominent reporter Javier Valdez, who built his career documenting the inner workings of Mexican drug cartels, was shot to death May 15 while driving in Culiacán, Sinaloa. (RELATED: Prominent Mexican Journalist Gunned Down In Broad Daylight)
The Michoacán attorney general’s office launched an investigation into Adame’s disappearance four days after the notification of his disappearance, prompted by local media reports that he had been “a victim of intimidation due to his profession,” CNN reported. State investigators initially downplayed the possibility that Adame’s work as a journalist served as a motive for the killing, claiming instead that a local drug boss had ordered it due to a perceived insult.
Godoy also suggested that the abduction was related to “personal problems,” which critics say is a common motive offered by Mexican authorities in criminal cases involving journalists.
“There’s been a tendency by the authorities to disqualify either the victim’s work as a journalist, or focus on personal issues such as the possible motive, even if there are clear signs that the victim’s work as a reporter was in fact the motive,” Jan-Albert Hootsen, a CPJ correspondent in Mexico, told the Guardian.
CPJ previously reported on an incident in April 2016 in which Adame and his wife were detained and beaten by state police officers while attempting to cover a protest in Nueva Italia. Adame told CPJ that he was surprised authorities would go so far as to arrest him for covering local community issues.
“We cover social issues and sometimes annoy the authorities by doing so, but I have never had any problem with them,” he told CPJ.
Michoacán has long been one of the most violent states in Mexico, and state police regularly work with cartels to facilitate drug trafficking or shake down local residents in cartel territory. Corrupt state officials are uninterested in protecting journalists who attempt to expose such cooperation, press advocates say.
“It’s basically a situation where drug trafficking organizations, which operate with the protection and collusion of local authorities, recognize there will be no consequences for killing journalists,” CPJ executive director Joel Simon told CNN.
“So when they want to control information or punish journalists or censor journalists,” they can do so with impunity, he added.