Literary festival to be held online to protest journalist killings in Mexico's Veracruz state

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MEXICO CITY — A popular literary festival is abandoning its venue in Mexico's Veracruz state this year due to protests over the killings and disappearances of more than a dozen journalists in recent years, organizers said Friday.

In a public letter to the state tourism secretary that was also reproduced on its website, the Hay Festival announced that the October event will take place online instead of in the city of Xalapa.

The move came in response to a call for the festival not to be held in Veracruz that was signed by hundreds of writers, intellectuals and journalists from around the world.

"We have heard the sentiment of a good part of the intellectual community," organizers said.

The government of Veracruz issued a statement saying that although it has legal guarantees that the event would take place this year and the next in Xalapa, it would not try to force the festival to meet its commitment.

Press advocacy groups say at least 11 journalists have been killed and four have gone missing in the southern Gulf Coast state since 2010. Some people hold authorities responsible for the wave of attacks on reporters in Veracruz, one of the states most afflicted by organized crime in Mexico.

The latest victim was Moises Sanchez, an activist and journalist in the town of Medellin de Bravo, who was kidnapped from his home by armed men in early January. His decapitated body was found three weeks later in a ravine. Investigators suspect a former police officer of carrying out the killing allegedly at the behest of the town's mayor.

"We are conscious of the fact that the death of Moises Sanchez ... has caused even more pain and anger," festival organizers said.

Petition signers included the U.S. writers Junot Diaz and Francisco Goldman as well as prominent Mexican journalist Alma Guillermoprieto, who has written for British and U.S. publications including The Guardian, The Washington Post and The New Yorker.

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