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Newspaper "Tabasco Hoy" threatened by drug traffickers' hitmen prior to journalist's disappearance

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 26 January 2007 IAPA press release:

IAPA calls for investigation into Mexico journalist's disappearance

MIAMI, Florida (January 26, 2007) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today urged the Tabasco state and national authorities in Mexico to investigate the disappearance of journalist Rodolfo Rincón Taracena, a reporter for the Tabasco Hoy daily newspaper, who went missing six days ago.

Rincón Taracena had been covering the police beat for eight years for the newspaper, located in the Villahermosa, capital of the southeastern Mexican state of Tabasco. He was last seen on Saturday, January 20 according to his family, which formally notified the local State Attorney's Office of his disappearance.

"We are calling on the state and federal authorities to investigate promptly and fully so as to determine the whereabouts of the journalist," said Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information. "Unfortunately, alarming violence is continuing to be unleashed against journalists in Mexico at the dawn of this new year," he added.

The IAPA's plea was sent to Tabasco State Governor Andrés Granier Melo and State Attorney Gustavo Rosario Torres.

In a telephone call to the IAPA the executive editor of Tabasco Hoy, Héctor Tapia, said the day Rincón Taracena went missing the paper had published a report of his that exposed increased drug dealing activity locally.

In the past two years Villahermosa has seen a sharp rise in such activity, especially involving a gang calling itself Las Zetas, known as military-trained contract killers.

Tapia said his newspaper had received threats from the gang in recent months. Reporters and editors were warned on four occasions that if they continued reporting on the local illicit narcotics trade "the same will happen to you as in Quintana Roo." This was a reference to grenade attacks by organized crime elements on the newspapers Por Esto! and Que Quintana Roo se entere in that Mexican state.

Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, said that "in this kind of situation it is important for other journalists and media to show solidarity with those involved, so that they can seek ways to confront the violence and avoid resorting to self-censorship, a serious consequence that these attacks tend to give rise to."

The IAPA also asked the Mexican federal authorities to continue looking into the disappearances of two other journalists, Rafael Ortiz Martínez and Alfredo Jiménez Mota, who went missing on July 8, 2006 and April 2, 2005, respectively.

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