The owner of a Veracruz newspaper is claiming that the most recent journalist to be killed in Mexico was colluding with organized crime, raising broader questions about the integrity of the country's press and the dangers local reporters face as they cover local crime beats in cartel territory.
José Abella, the owner of the Veracruz daily newspaper El Buen Tono, has alleged in a radio interview that the recently killed journalist Anabel Flores Salazar had ties with organized crime.
Flores Salazar, who was a freelance journalist covering crime and justice issues for the local paper El Sol de Orizaba and other outlets, was found dead along the side of a Veracruz highway on February 9, after having been kidnapped from her home the previous day.
Flores Salazar previously worked for El Buen Tono under Abella, who says he fired her several months prior on suspicion of being involved with organized crime affiliates.
Specifically, Abella accuses Flores Salazar of having been working on behalf of local organized crime entities, in charge of distributing hush money to other journalists in exchange for their cooperation in not reporting on "what really happens in the region."
Abella also said that reporters show drafts of their articles to local organized crime affiliates for approval, prior to submitting their work to the newspapers they work for. Abella used the interview to decry the state of journalism in Mexico at large, calling it a "simulation" of journalism.
The offices of Abella's newspaper, El Buen Tono, suffered an arson attack in 2011 carried out by an "armed group."
InSight Crime Analysis
The allegations Abella has lodged against the late Flores Salazar are unsubstantiated, and he may have his own agenda in speaking to the press on the matter. However, the larger concerns he raises about the state of journalism in Mexico and the unpleasant realities of being a local crime reporter in cartel territory may well be legitimate.
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In August 2015, two reporters were fired from El Bueno Tono for their alleged association with members of the Zetas criminal organization. The two were reportedly caught in the crossfire of an attack carried out against members of the Zetas, with whom the journalists were supposedly drinking. In December 2015, two prominent media outlets in Mexico were blacklisted by the US Department of Treasury for their ties to the Los Cuinis Cartel.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international non-profit organization that tracks violence against journalists worldwide, lists 36 journalists or media workers killed in Mexico since 2010, excluding Flores Salazar who is not listed in their official count. Since 1992, the year CPJ began tracking statistics, 75 percent of all murdered journalists and media workers in Mexico were covering local crime beats at the time of their death.