On Monday, June 26, a state prosecutor said that a burned body found in Nueva Italia, Mexico was identified, through a DNA test, as that of missing journalist Salvador Adame. He had been missing for over a month. His body was discovered under a bridge located on a rural highway in the western Mexican state of Michoacán.
KTLA 5 reported that Adame is the latest in a series of journalists to be murdered in Mexico, the deadliest country for journalists so far in 2017. State prosecutor José Godoy said that Adame had worked in the city of Nueva Italia for Canal 6 media (6TV), as the station’s general director and its owner.
On May 18, Adame’s family notified authorities that an armed group had kidnapped the journalist. CBS News reported that the journalist was grabbed by armed men in Nueva Italia, who hustled him into a vehicle. According to the Mexico Daily News, Godoy said that DNA results confirmed that the remains of a charred body discovered underneath a bridge on June 14 in Michoacán were Adame’s. The location is known as “Barranca del Diablo.”
Godoy related that a suspect in a kidnapping informed the police that a local crime boss had ordered a hit on Adame. The suspect allegedly said there were “personal problems” between the crime boss and Adame. Godoy said the suspect is a member of a gang called the “Caballeros Templarios gang.”
Godoy said Adame had received phone calls from the crime boss, who left him insulting and angry messages. The nickname of the crime boss is “El Chango Peña.”
Despite Gordoy’s explanation prosecutors in Mexico have been criticized numerous times for attributing the murders of journalists to “personal problems or motives” not related to political news they were covering.
In April 2016, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported on both Adame and his wife, Frida Urtiz, claiming that the police in Mexico detained them when they were trying to cover a protest held because a government-funded social project had been canceled. Adame stated to the CPJ that he was surprised by the detention.
Adame said he had been surprised because, though new stories he had previously covered might sometimes have annoyed the police and government officials, he said in a statement to CPJ that he had never experienced “any problem with them.”
The CPJ has ranked Mexico the deadliest country this year for journalists. CPJ stated that is because so far in 2017, there have been four journalists murdered there. They have been killed “in direct retaliation” for their coverage of controversial topics.
The number of slain journalists in Mexico this year is even higher, with Adame being the seventh journalist killed there in 2017, and with several more months to go. Since 1992, there have been approximately 40 journalists murdered in Mexico for reasons related to their coverage of news. Since 1992, 50 other journalists were murdered in the country because of motives that have yet to be established, but which might be related to their work covering the news.
In June, the internet watchdog group, Citizen Lab, from the University of Toronto, said that spyware called Pegasus that is produced in Israel by the NSO group has been utilized to target cellphones belonging to journalists who are critical of, or who are investigating, the government in Mexico. The Citizen Lab stated it has no conclusive evidence that anyone in Mexico’s government was involved, but it added that the Pegasus software was only sold by Israel to governments.
Assistant Attorney General Ricardo Sanchez said the spyware could have been supplied by companies. He has requested that victims let investigators examine their cellphones, though many people likely will not turn over their phones, because they are suspicious that the government of Mexico is actually behind the spying,
Though the burned body found in Mexico underneath a bridge has been positively identified as the body of missing journalist, Salvador Adame, many questions remain about the circumstances of his death. State prosecutor José Godoy said a gang member suspected in a kidnapping blamed a crime boss, “El Chango Peña,” for Adame’s death, saying he put out a hit on the journalist. However, others in Mexico, like the CPJ, suggest the government of the country is behind Adame’s murder, as well as the murders of many other journalists, because they have covered news that is critical of the government.
By John Samuels
Photo Courtesy Twitter