The Sinaloa cartel was behind the kidnapping last week of four journalists, all of whom are now free, in the northern Mexican state of Durango, Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said.
“The goal of this group was to transmit messages from organized crime to impact the community, using the reporters as the channel,” Garcia Luna said in a press conference.
The four reporters were abducted Monday while covering a disturbance at a Durango prison whose warden was arrested on charges that she allowed prisoners out at night to commit more than 30 killings on behalf of a drug cartel.
The journalists disappeared in La Laguna, a region that sprawls across parts of Coahuila and Durango states.
Reporters Javier Canales Fernández, of Multimedios Torreón and Alejandro Hernández Pacheco, of Televisa Torreón during a press conference after being rescued.
Televisa cameraman Alejandro Hernandez and Milenio Television cameraman Jaime Canales were rescued by Federal Police officers Saturday in Gomez Palacio, a city in Durango, officials said.
Televisa correspondent Hector Gordoa was released unharmed on Thursday.
Oscar Solis, a reporter with the Durango newspaper El Vespertino, has also been released, Garcia Luna said.
Gordoa and Solis were released following negotiations with the kidnappers, who were not caught, the public safety secretary said.
“When they noticed the presence of the Federal Police around the safe house, the kidnappers fled,” Garcia Luna said.
The main concern was the journalists’ safety and investigators are continuing to work to find the kidnappers, the public safety secretary said.
Two of the journalists appeared at the press conference on Saturday.
“All day and all night they intimidated us ... when they saw themselves surrounded, they really thought about harming us, but they treated us badly,” Hernandez said.
The cameraman, who suffered a head injury when he was hit with a board, said he was convinced that the gunmen were going to kill him.
Some of Mexico’s leading broadcast journalists went silent on the air last week in a symbolic protest of the journalists’ kidnapping in Durango.
“Unusual things” are being seen in Mexico, muckraking pundit Carmen Aristegui said Friday on MVS radio, citing the decision of Televisa host Denisse Maerker to display a blank screen for most of her hour-long weekly public affairs program on the country’s dominant network.
Anchors of a news program on W Radio followed Maerker’s example on Friday.
Mexico has seen an escalation in violence against journalists, the country’s independent National Human Rights Commission said Thursday.
While the commission puts the number of journalists slain in Mexico since 2000 at 64, the Press Freedom Foundation says that 10 have killed this year alone and more than 70 over the past decade.
Most of the murders of reporters have been attributed to the conflicts among drug cartels and between the criminals and security forces that are blamed for some 25,000 deaths in Mexico over the past 3½ years.