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Mexico officials allege criminal ties in journalist killing

MEXICO CITY (AP) – The director of an online news site who was until recently a municipal functionary in the northern Mexico state of Sonora was killed late Thursday, the sixth journalist this year.

The Sonora state prosecutor’s office said on Friday that Jorge Camero was gunned down inside a gym in the town of Empalme, It’s preliminary investigation indicated the killing was related to criminal activity.

State Attorney General Claudia Contreras Córdova said that while they were looking at Camero’s news site, her office did not consider freedom of expression as one of its lines of investigation.

“This is related to street level drug sales or possible criminal groups,” Contreras said.

Until earlier this month, Camero had worked as private secretary to Empalme’s mayor and operated the news site he ran on Facebook called El Informativo.

El Informativo ran a mix of hyper-local news -what appeared to be municipal government press releases, traffic accidents, ribbon cuttings. Camero had previously worked for local radio stations.

FM 105 XEPS said in its coverage that Camero had previously worked on air there, as well as with other stations for years before starting El Informativo in 2018.

It’s not unusual for local journalists to be pulled into municipal government positions and to continue operating their news outlets essentially as public relations for the local administration.

The prosecutor’s office said Camero had left his public position after a video circulated on social networks alleging he was part of a local criminal structure.

The office said it had opened an investigation into those allegations. The body of Daniel Palafox, the person who made the allegation against Camero in the video, was found earlier this month.

In the video, Palafox, a former state lawmaker, is handcuffed and seated on a bucket as he answers questions from an unseen interrogator. Palafox had also been working for the Empalme municipal government, running its information systems.

Cartels occasionally release such videos of captives speaking under duress to taunt or expose their rivals.

Empalme Mayor Luis Fuentes Aguilar said in a video message on Friday that he had asked Camero to resign after the allegations in the video surfaced. Fuentes said that since Camero joined his campaign last year he had not worked at his site El Informativo.

Fuentes said Camero’s murder hurt, but he trusted authorities to carry out the investigation.

“There is no justification for a murder,” he said.

Mexico’s Undersecretary of the Interior for Human Rights, Alejandro Encinas, has said that the impunity rate in the killings of journalists and human rights activists is above 90 per cent.

Empalme is a coastal town along the Gulf of California.