After the killing of his family and five of his colleagues, Mexican reporter and photographer Miguel Ángel López Solana urged journalistic organizations to protect journalists in the state of Veracruz on Tuesday, May 22, during the 10th annual Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas, themed Security and Protection for Journalists and organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and the Open Society Foundations.
“I'm worried about my colleagues in Veracruz,” said the journalist, age 31, who lost his father, Miguel Ángel López Velasco, who was the news editor and columnist for the newspaper Notiver; his brother Misael López Solana, reporter for the same newspaper; and his mother, Agustina Solana, in June 2011 when armed individuals raided their house and shot them while they were asleep.
“Since they killed my family, things had to change, and we shouldn't have to suffer from anymore deaths in Veracruz,” said López Solana in a story that left the Austin Forum participants in silence. López Solana said that journalists of Veracruz lack support from NGOs while state authorities don't punish crimes against journalists.
After the burial of his family, López Solana went to Mexico City where he was supported by the newspaper La Jornada, and was told the newspaper didn't have enough measures to protect his life and so he was advised to leave the country. After waiting for six months, López decided to act on his own, and file for a tourist visa to be able to enter the U.S. legally, and he then, from Texas, requested political asylum. “I escaped, and ran until the night caught me,” he said about his journey from the capital of Veracruz to the Mexican border.
López Solana said that his colleagues Gabriel Huge, Esteban Rodríguez, and Guillermo Luna from Notiver received death threats and were fired after being at risk. Daniela Pastrana, from the organization Journalists on Foot, said that a death threat against a journalist often brings unjustified firings from news outlets in Veracruz.
According to López Solana, Veracruz authorities threatened the owners of local news outlets, saying that if any of those three photographers were to be hired, advertising would be taken away from these news outlets. “This is how it is in Mexico, 'money controls everything,'" he said.
During the Forum, López Solana also explained about the connection between his father's killing, who was a police journalist veteran in Veracruz, with the killing of Yolanda Ordaz in July 2011, and the recent killing of Gabriel Huge and two dismembered and tortured photographers in the beginning of May, 2012. “My father, Yolanda Ordaz, and Gabriel Huge were one, two, and three from the Notiver newsroom," he said. The three worked for the newspaper the longest, and they always worked as a team to get information.
Regarding rumors of Ordaz having collaborated with organized crime, López Solana answered: “You don't know the violence that is forced upon us (journalists). In Veracruz, you do not work for the drug trafficker, you only survive," he said. His father, known by the nickname "Milo Vera," was an expert in drug trafficking issues. He stopped writing about trafficking out of fear from threats he received, and in 2007, he dedicated his columns to "Va de nuez," which reported about corruption in the police and court systems in Veracruz.
In his political asylum petition, López Solana and his wife are represented by lawyer Carlos Spector, who obtained refuge for other Mexican journalists in the U.S., according to the Texas Observer.
“In Veracruz, the businessman and politician have already been broken, but the journalist cannot be broken and this is why he is killed,” he said. With the killing of reporter Regina Martínez, there now have been eight journalists killed in 10 months in Veracruz, which is considered one of the 10 most dangerous places in the world for journalists, according to the organization Reporters Without Borders.
Finally, López Solana invited the participating organizations in the Austin Forum to create a similar event in Veracruz. “Journalists over there are too lonely and have no support. They live in fear and terror," he said.