Police in Mexico found the burned remains of a journalist who was kidnapped in May, the sixth reporter killed this year in the country, a state prosecutor said Monday.
With the grisly find, Salvador Adame, the head of a local TV station in the state of Michoacan, becomes the latest name on the list of more than 100 journalists killed in Mexico since 2000.
More than 90 percent of these killings remain unpunished.
Adame, 44, was surrounded by gunmen and abducted in the western town of Nueva Italia on May 18.
Police and soldiers found his charred remains four weeks later, dumped at a spot known as “Devil’s Gully” along a local road, said state prosecutor Jose Martin Godoy.
“DNA samples have confirmed that these remains are those of Salvador Adame,” Godoy told a news conference.
Adame was the owner of local television channel Canal 6 in Michoacan, a region hit hard by Mexico’s epidemic of gang violence.
His kidnapping came two days after Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto had vowed to strengthen protections for journalists and prosecute those who attack them.
That announcement was in response to the killing of award-winning crime reporter Javier Valdez in the northwestern state of Sinaloa on May 15.
All six journalists killed this year had been reporting on powerful crime gangs and government corruption.
Adame had been investigating a gas station he suspected to be a front for organized crime, in collusion with the authorities, a colleague said on condition of anonymity.
But investigators have not cited his journalism as a possible motive for his killing — drawing criticism from media rights groups.
State prosecutors initially theorized he was indebted or involved in a love triangle.
Godoy said investigators were informed of the location of his body by a recently arrested suspect.
The suspect was said to have indicated that Adame was killed on the orders of a regional crime boss known as “El Chano Pena.”
Investigators were honing in on the “possible motive (of) problems of a personal nature between the victim and El Chano Pena,” Godoy said.
Watchdog group Reporters Without Borders condemned what it called a failure to investigate Adame’s reporting as a motive.
“We’re expecting just one thing now: that they’ll let all other lines of investigation dry up, especially Salvador’s journalism,” the group’s Mexico representative, Balbina Flores, told AFP.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Mexico is the third deadliest country for journalists in the world, after the warzones of Syria and Afghanistan.
Last year, 11 journalists were killed in Mexico — the worst yearly toll yet.
But 2017 could be on track to surpass it, with six killings so far in different states of the country: Cecilio Pineda, Ricardo Monlui, Miroslava Breach, Maximino Rodriguez, Valdez and now Adame.
Investigators have reported little progress in most of the cases.
Authorities arrested four suspects in the case of Rodriguez, a journalist for the blog Colectivo Pericu who was killed in Veracruz. But they have not identified who ordered the killing.
Two weeks ago, the government offered rewards of up to $85,000 each for leads in the cases of Pineda, Valdez, Rodriguez and Breach — in what some branded an act of desperation.
Journalists and activists have protested the authorities’ failure to bring journalists’ killers to justice. The most recent protests were on June 15, one month after Valdez was gunned down in broad daylight.
Violence against journalists has surged since 2006, the year the Mexican government sent the army to fight the country’s powerful narcotics cartels.
Since then, at least 100 journalists have been killed, more than 20 have gone missing and more than 200 report surviving attacks by drug gang thugs.
The violence is part of a wave of bloodshed in Mexico over the same period that has left more than 200,000 people dead or missing.