A 22-year-old photographer for the Mexican newspaper Vanguardia, Daniel Martínez Bazaldúa, was found dead in the northern Mexican city of Saltillo, according to the AP. His body had been hacked up and left in a pile along with the body of his friend Julián Alejandro Zamora Gracia, an engineering student. Both men had gone missing on April 23 and were found the following day.
Bazuldua had been hired only a month ago to cover social events for Vanguardia in Saltillo, located in northern Coahuila state, which is an area the Zetas drug cartel has strong influence in. Recently, another Coahuila newspaper announced that it would stop publishing stories about drug cartels after threats signed by a Zetas leader were delivered to its offices.
Proceso.com wrote that two messages were left beside the bodies, which indicated that both men had belonged to a criminal organization before deserting it. The state government pointed at this in the deaths, saying the signs suggested the two young men had once been involved with a drug gang. But Vanguardia urged further inquiry on the part of police.
"We think it is sad and alarming that Coahuila has become a state in which the authorities condemn murdered people, converting them into criminals, without offering the least evidence," the paper wrote. "As in all murders, Vanguardia demands of the military, federal, state and municipal authorities an in-depth investigation, from which it may be deduced as to whether these crimes are linked to the journalistic profession."
Editorial director Ricardo Mendoza described Daniel Martínez Bazaldúa to the AP as "very calm", "friendly" and "enthusiastic", and said he did not know if the killing was related to the young man's work as a photographer.
In the Mexican cities with a strong drug cartel presence, covering even the society section of news organizations can be dangerous. Cartel leaders are known to be angered by perceived slights, which can include either leaving them out of society coverage or featuring them too prominently.
In 2012, according to the AP, Mexico's special prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression listed 67 journalists as having been killed and 14 others disappeared in the country since 2006.
Since December of 2012, when Enrique Peña Nieto began his presidency of Mexico, the organization Freedom House has recorded 36 separate cases of attacks on journalists. In the beginning of March 2013, Guadalupe González Domínguez, the director of a news site based in the state of Chihuahua, was murdered. The site discontinued its activities afterward.