Armando Saldaña Morales, Mexican Journalist, shot dead after reporting on oil theft 

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May 7, Mexico City: A Mexican journalist was executed on Monday with four bullets to the head in what was reported to be a premeditated assassination. Armando Saldana Morales, 52, was killed in the afternoon outside Cosolapa in Oaxaca, Mexico. His body was found in a white Ford F-150, near the border of Veracruz. He’s the second reporter to be found dead in the area in less than a year and one of dozens of journalists murdered in Mexico in the past decade, Latin Times reported.

Morales was reportedly intercepted by one or more gunmen as he drove to his home near Tezonapa, Veracruz. He was a writer for a local newspaper, “Crónica de Tierra Blanca,” and a regional radio show, “La Ke Buena 100.9 F.M.,” according to Mexican officials. Police are investigating the death as a homicide but have not indicated any leads. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists around 90 percent of murders of reporters in Mexico go unsolved.

Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, from New York said “Journalists have paid a high price for reporting the news in Mexico–they are routinely murdered or disappeared with total impunity,” and added “Federal authorities must fully investigate this crime, look deeply into Armando Saldaña Morales’ reporting as a possible motive, and bring those responsible to justice.”

Octavio Bravo Bravo, Saldaña’s colleague at the station, told CPJ that he last saw the journalist on Saturday in Veracruz. The local newspaper Crónica de Tierra Blanca reported that Saldaña disappeared after a party. Another report by El Mundo said that Saldaña was intercepted by gunmen as he headed home, in the days leading up to his death, Saldaña had reported on air about the alleged theft by organized crime members of petroleum products from pipelines belonging to Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, the state oil company, Bravo Bravo told CPJ. Theft from pipelines plagues Pemex and often involves organized crime and cartels such as Los Zetas.

Organized crime, Bravo Bravo said, is rife in the Tierra Blanca region and is a topic on which journalists tend to stay silent, offering only basic details and not naming names. Saldaña pushed the envelope further than most, Bravo Bravo said. “Among ourselves, we self-censor. You put your life at risk and that of your family, too,” he said. “I knew him as an earnest person: hard working, serious, responsible, very professional and competent. I don’t know what happened.”

Investigating thefts from pipelines has brought danger for journalists in Mexico before, according to CPJ research. In August 2014,freelance journalist Octavio Rojas Hernández, who worked for two months for the Veracruz newspaper El Buen Tono, was shot dead after being lured from his home in San José Cosala, Oaxaca, by an individual who said he wanted to purchase his car, news reports said. Two days before his death, El Buen Tono had published a story on the army and Oaxaca state police breaking up a local ring accused of siphoning gas from pipelines belonging to Pemex. Rojas was the only El Buen Tono correspondent in the area.

According to CPJ research Veracruz is one of the most dangerous states in Mexico for the press. Four other Veracruz journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work since 2011; CPJ is investigating the deaths of at least six other Veracruz journalists in unclear circumstances. At least three journalists have disappeared in the state in the same time period. In the past, Governor Duarte’s government has sought to dismiss any possible link between journalists’ murders and their profession.

Violence tied to drug trafficking has made Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the World for the press, according to CPJ research. More than 50 journalists have been killed or have disappeared since 2007. The country was ranked seventh on CPJ’s 2014 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free.

The Oslo Times condemn the murder and calls on the authorities to fully investigate this crime, look deeply into Armando Saldaña Morales’ reporting as a possible motive, and bring those responsible to justice.           The Oslo Times

 

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