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Veracruz governor vows to protect journalists

By Tom Watkins, CNN
May 5, 2012 -- Updated 0038 GMT (0838 HKT)
A vehicle transporting the remains of two news photographers arrives at the morgue in Veracruz, Mexico, on Thursday.
A vehicle transporting the remains of two news photographers arrives at the morgue in Veracruz, Mexico, on Thursday.
  • Duarte creates two organizations -- for organized crime victims and journalists
  • The decision comes a day after 4 people -- 3 of them journalists -- are found dead
  • The find occurred on World Press Freedom Day

(CNN) -- The governor of Mexico's eastern state of Veracruz vowed Friday to create two organizations -- one to help the victims of organized crime and the other to protect journalists.

"We have the strength, the capacity, and above all the courage and determination to confront and overcome any challenge," Governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa said in a speech broadcast throughout the state on radio and television.

His promises came a day after authorities fished from a canal in the city of Boca del Rio the dismembered bodies of four people -- three photojournalists and a girlfriend of one of them. The bodies were found inside plastic bags; the victims appeared to have been tortured, the state's attorney general said, according to CNN Mexico.

"Giving certainty and tranquility to the journalists in the free exercise of their work is an obligation and commitment of my government; taking care of whoever has suffered crime is an obligation and conviction of my administration," Duarte said.

"There is no democracy that evolves without freedom of speech and thought," he added.

He described his decision to create the two organizations as "a response to the unprecedented times that we are living."
Duarte said he had personally contacted the heads of news organizations, representatives of civil society and nongovernmental organizations, and other experts "so that, with their experience and knowledge, we can find the most efficient and direct way to handle these two matters that affect us all equally."

Duarte said authorities had determined that the killings discovered Thursday appeared to be the work of organized crime.

The journalists, who had been reported missing the day before their bodies were discovered, were identified as Guillermo Luna Varela, Gabriel Huge and Esteban Rodriguez.

Huge was a former photographer for the newspaper Notiver, Luna was a photographer for Veracruznews who had also worked for other local news organizations on crime stories, and Rodriguez was a photographer who had retired last year after the killing of Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, another Notiver journalist, said the group Reporters Without Borders.

Also discovered was the body of Irasema Becerra, Luna's girlfriend, who worked for the sales department for the newspaper El Dictamen, the group said.

Martin Lara Reyna, director of Veracruznews, told the reporters group that Luna had left the region last year after receiving threats but that he returned early this year, CNN Mexico reported.

The discovery occurred on World Press Freedom Day and less than a week after Regina Martinez, a reporter for the weekly Proceso magazine, was killed, Reporters Without Borders said.

Since 2010, seven journalists have been killed in the state and another 10 have disappeared, Reporters Without Borders said.

Over the past decade, 83 "information professionals" have been killed and 14 have disappeared, it said. "A profound reform of the judicial system nationwide is needed," it said.

In its report on a survey of political rights and civil liberties, "Freedom of the Press 2012," Freedom House described Mexico as "not free."

CNN's Nick Valencia contributed to this report.

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