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Four journalists held hostage in Mexico

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The four were abducted Monday
  • Journalists' group urges authorities "to do everything in their power" to bring release
  • Organized crime is being blamed for the abductions

Mexico City, Mexico (CNN) -- The Committee to Protect Journalists appealed Wednesday to the Mexican government to do all it can to bring about the release of four journalists abducted Monday.

"We urge state and federal authorities to do everything in their power to locate the four missing journalists and bring them to safety," said Carlos Lauria, CPJ's Americas senior program coordinator. "Mexican journalists are paying a terrible price for their work, and authorities must send a clear message that this brutal action will not go unpunished."

The four were abducted in the Laguna region, which includes Durango and parts of the neighboring state of Coahuila -- all in the northern part of the country where the Zetas criminal group and the Sinaloa cartel have been fighting.

They were picked up as they were investigating accusations of corruption against the director of a detention center, Durango Governor Ismael Hernandez told a reporter. He said responsibility for the abductions lay, "without doubt," with organized crime.

The abductors disagree with the "news coverage that so far is being given to the conflict" over the detention center and jail, which is located in the town of Gomez Palacio in the state of Durango, by the Multimedios group, the newspaper Milenio Diario reported Wednesday.

Last week, center director Margarita Rojas and several other center employees were arrested, accused of permitting prisoners to leave the jail to commit crimes.

The Mexican attorney general's office said Sunday that inmates from the detention center were let out each night after 8 p.m. to kill rival drug gang members. The prisoners were allowed to use prison vehicles and weapons and would return to the jail after committing the crimes, said Ricardo Najer, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.

Video: Horrific violence in Mexico
  • Mexico
  • Illegal Drugs
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The inmates were responsible for last week's mass slaying of 17 people at a party in the nearby city of Torreon in the state of Coahuila, Najer said. The prison is located just across the state line, in Durango state.

Officials said they matched bullet shells found at the crime scenes with weapons at the prison.

The prison weapons also matched casings found at shooting deaths at bars on February 1 and May 15, authorities said.

Three of the journalists were reported missing on Monday afternoon after covering protests at the center by prisoners and their relatives who were seeking Rojas' reinstatement as director, the Milenio group reported. The fourth man was abducted Monday night.

News reports have identified the journalists as Jaime Canales, cameraman for the TV station Multimedios Laguna; Oscar Solís, a reporter with the local newspaper El Vespertino; and Hector Gordoa and Alejandro Hernandez, cameramen for the national Televisa network.

The cameraman for Multimedios called his managers and told them that his captors were demanding that they broadcast three videos on the noon news of the local channel Grupo Milenio in exchange for his freedom, Milenio Diario reported Wednesday.

The 15 minutes of video were broadcast unedited on Telediario de la Laguna, in a special linkup that originated from Milenio Television in the capital, the newspaper said.

They show people apparently being held against their will who denounce the reports of complicity between Zetas and police from the towns of Torreon, Gomez Palacio and Lerdo, the report said.

During the past three years, threats against members of the news media who have reported on organized crime have increased "in an alarming manner," said Balbina Flores, representative in Mexico of Reporters without Borders.

"They have had an enormous and very serious impact on the press," she said. "We are witnessing the silencing of the means of communication."

She said 67 journalists have been killed since 2000, 38 of them since Felipe Calderon initiated his anti-drug campaign three years ago. Last year, 224 attacks on journalists were reported, she said.