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article imageJournalist murdered in Mexico near tourist hotspot Cancun

By AFP     Jul 24, 2018 in Travel

A journalist was murdered Tuesday in southeast Mexico, not far from tourist hotspot Cancun, the government said -- the seventh such killing this year in one of the world's most dangerous countries for reporters.

Ruben Pat, the editor-in-chief of the Playa News weekly, was shot dead outside a bar in Playa del Carmen in the early hours, the Quintana Roo state government and prosecutors said.

He was the second journalist from Playa News based in Playa del Carmen, which is located south of Cancun on Mexico's Gulf coast, murdered in less than a month, after his colleague Jose Guadalupe Chan.

The killing prompted outrage in Mexico, the second most dangerous place in the world for journalists last year, behind only civil war-wracked Syria, with 11 murdered, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

"It is imperative that a prompt, exhaustive and effective investigation is carried out," said Jean Jarab, the representative of the United Nations rights agency to Mexico.

That probe should focus on stories that Pat and Playa News had worked on, as well as "previous examples of threats and attacks against members of the press," he added.

According to the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Pat claimed in June he had been "arrested, threatened and tortured" by police in Playa del Carmen, which is also a tourist hub.

The slain journalist said he had "published information that would link local officials to organized crime," according to the UN agency.

Pat spoke to AFP in late June about threatening phone calls received by Chan, who worked as a correspondent in an indigenous Maya area.

RSF said Pat had sought protection after receiving threats "but had been given just a GPS and a panic button," the latter being a direct communications line with authorities.

"The Mexican authorities must draw the inevitable conclusion from this terrible event, namely that the Federal Mechanism for Protecting Journalists failed in its duty to protect Ruben Pat although his situation of vulnerability had been known for a long time," said RSF Latin America chief Emmanuel Colombie.

The Quintana Roo Human Rights Committee demanded action by local authorities over the two murders, saying: "Enough attacks against freedom of expression," which it described as "a fundamental pillar of democracy."

Prosecutors said the incident was meant to "intimidate" other journalists.

On its Facebook page, Playa News demanded answers from the state government about Pat's murder.

The European Union spoke of the "alarming recurrence of murders of journalists" in Mexico, and urged the "authorities to make use of all the means at their disposal to guarantee the protection of those who practice journalism."

It also called for an evaluations of the protective mechanism so that it can be rendered more effective.

- Danger zone for journalists -

According to various freedom of speech organizations, more than 100 journalist have been killed in Mexico since 2000. The vast majority of those crimes have gone unpunished.

The other five murders this year happened in several states: Tamaulipas in the northeast (two), Guerrero in the south, and Veracruz and Tabasco in the east.

All of those areas are known for high levels of organized crime -- authorities are often accused of colluding with crime lords.

Intimidation of journalists in those areas is common, but journalism isn't the only risky profession in Mexico.

Between September and presidential elections on July 1, at least 145 politicians were killed.

Five of the eight most violent cities in the world are located in Mexico, according to government statistics for 2017.

Los Cabos in the country's northwest topped that list with 111 murders per 100,000 citizens.

Also Tuesday, authorities said they found the bodies of six men in the western state of Michoacan near a known people-smuggling route to the US. In the same state, a former local council candidate was also shot and killed Tuesday, the state attorney general's office said.

Mexico saw a total of 15,973 murders in the first semester of this year, up from 13,503 over the same period in 2017, until now the bloodiest year of record, according to official figures.

Quintana Roo state has suffered its share of drug-related violent crime.

Five people were killed in January 2017 in Playa del Carmen after a gunman opened fire in a crowded nightclub during a music festival.

Some 279 people were killed in drug-trafficking related violence in the state in the first half of the year, according to Semaforo Delictivo, an organization that compiles crime statistics.

Quintana Roo nonetheless is home to many of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico, particularly among visitors from the United States and Europe.

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