More than a month ago, a group of armed men forced television journalist Salvador Adame into a black SUV near a water purifying plant, local news outlets reported. The abductors then fled the area, in the southern part of the violent, gang-ridden Mexican state of Michoacán.

Weeks later, authorities found charred human remains in a rural area known as “Barranca del Diablo,” or the “Devil’s Gorge.” Through DNA tests, authorities identified the body as Adame’s, Michoacán’s state prosecutor said Monday, making him the seventh journalist killed this year in Mexico, the deadliest country for journalists in 2017.

Adame had worked as a journalist for two decades and was the founder and director of local television station 6TV, covering news and local politics in the Múgica municipality. He had been a “frequent critic of municipal officials,” the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported.

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Authorities have taken two suspects into custody in connection to the murder: Ignacio Rentería Andrade and Daniel Rubio Ruiz, known as “El Cabezas,” who referred to Adame as his cousin, Michoacán’s state prosecutor said in a statement. “El Cabezas” had an active arrest warrant against him for a different kidnapping in 2015.

The leader of a local drug cartel allegedly ordered Adame’s death, prosecutors said, adding that the possible motive was due to “personal problems” between Adame and the gang boss, nicknamed “Chano Peña.” The cartel leader sent Adame insulting phone messages, according to the prosecutor’s statement.

Experts pointed out that Mexican prosecutors have previously come under fire for ascribing vague motives such as “personal problems” to the killings of journalists.

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“There’s been a tendency by the authorities to disqualify either the victim’s work as a journalist, or focus on personal issues and such as the possible motive, even if there are clear signs that the victim’s work as a reporter was in fact the motive,” Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ correspondent in Mexico told the Guardian.

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Roberto Rock, a committee chairman under the Inter American Press Association said “given the total impunity we journalists have already reached a stage in which while we do not have certainty regarding the causes of the murder of a colleague we have common cause to demand justice and that this be investigated painstakingly so as to learn the real motives of the crime and that those responsible be brought to court.”

Mexico’s human rights commission called on the state and federal authorities to “intensify investigations in a comprehensive and well documented way so that the motive, whatever it may be, corresponds to the evidence.”

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Of the seven journalists killed in Mexico this year, at least four have been killed in direct retaliation for their work, according to CPJ research. Since 1992, more than 90 journalists have been slain in Mexico. About 41 journalists have been killed in connection to their work; the motives in the other cases remain unclear.

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In May, prominent Mexican journalist and founder of the publication Ríodoce was fatally shot 12 times as he drove away from his newspaper’s offices in Culiacan, Sinaloa. In March, three Mexican journalists were killed in an “unprecedented” wave of violence against the press: A freelance writer was slain at a carwash, a columnist was shot twice as he left a restaurant with his family, and a reporter was shot outside her home while she was in her car with her child. A rolled-up piece of cardboard was left with the reason for the crime: “being a tattletale.”

Most of these killings go unpunished, and critics say a pattern has emerged of journalists being murdered with impunity. Due to the numerous killings this spring a newspaper in the Mexican border city of Juarez announced it would be shutting down.

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In an interview with The Washington Post, the newspaper’s owner said he was “fed up” by the dangerous risks being faced regularly by his reporters and he “would rather they lose their jobs than lose their lives.”

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This was not the first time Adame had been in the news in connection to press freedom concerns. In April 2016, Adame told CPJ that state police officers briefly detained him and his wife, also a journalist, beating them while they were handcuffed in the back of a police vehicle. They had been covering a protest at a government building.

“We cover social issues and sometimes annoy the authorities by doing so, but I have never had any problem with them,” Adame told CPJ at the time. He said he and his wife were filming the removal of women from the sit-in demonstration. He said he believed a government official ordered police to detain him and his wife. He said he was even considering leaving the state.

Their coverage “may have angered someone,” Adame told CPJ, “but we were just doing our job.”

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