Freedom of Expression

Press Release R84/15

The Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns the Killing of Graphic Reporter in Mexico in a Crime with Four Other Victims

August 4, 2015


Washington, D.C. – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of photojournalist Rubén Espinosa, activist Nadia Vera Pérez and three other women that where with them, occurred on July 31 in Mexico City, Mexico, and urges the Mexican authorities to act promptly and timely to investigate the crime, and identify and punish the perpetrators.


According to the available information, photographer Rubén Espinosa worked in the state of Veracruz for Proceso magazine and for Cuartoscuro and AVC Noticias agencies. He was also an activist who demanded measures to prevent, investigate and punish violence against journalists in that state.


In June he took temporary refuge in Mexico City, where he was born, after being threatened. In a recent interview, Espinosa expressed his fear and talked about an episode in which, while he was covering student protests, "a person from the State Government Adjutancy [Ayudantía del Gobierno del Estado]" of Veracruz went towards him and warned him: "stop taking pictures if you do not want to end up like Regina". Regina Martínez was a journalist from Veracruz killed in 2012. Espinosa had also pointed out the governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte Ochoa, as responsible for the lack of freedom of expression in the state. The photographer had also narrated recent episodes of harassment and surveillance.


Espinosa and the four women were found dead inside an apartment in Narvarte neighborhood, the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Mexico City [Procuraduría General de Justicia del Distrito Federal], that investigates the case, informed. One of the women killed was Nadia Vera Pérez, an activist from the #YoSoy132 student movement in Xalapa (Veracruz), according to local media. During an interview published eight months ago, Vera Pérez had made Duarte de Ochoa and "all his cabinet" responsible for "anything" that could happen to those who participate in social movements: "they are the ones who are ordering to repress us", she said.


The National Commission on Human Rights of Mexico [Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos] condemned the killings and demanded an investigation to identify if Espinosa’s killing was related to his job. The crime was also repudiated by Mexico City’s Human Rights Commission [Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Distrito Federal].


According to information provided by the State of Mexico, the Special Public Prosecutor on Crimes against Freedom of Expression [Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión] has been informed of the case, "has had a close communication" with the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Mexico City, which leads the investigation "due to the case’s circumstances", and "has offered its total support."


The Office expresses special concern for the recurrence of this kind of violent acts against journalists and media workers in Mexico. In 2014, eight persons were killed in this country, allegedly for exercising their right for freedom of expression, and during this year five cases have been documented, including Espinosa.


The state of Veracruz (south Mexico), where Espinosa lived and was threatened, is one of the most dangerous in the country for journalists. This year, journalists José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo, Armando Saldaña Morales and Juan Mendoza Delgado where killed in this area and journalists from the state have reported threats on numerous occasions.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the authorities to thoroughly investigate the hypothesis that these crimes were linked to the exercise of freedom of expression and the defense of human rights, and to put in practice all the legal instruments available to identify, prosecute and punish the perpetrators and masterminds responsible for these murders. The Office also considers it fundamental to adopt fair measures of reparation for the families of the journalists killed.


Moreover, the Office of the Special Rapporteur considers it essential to urgently assess whether the mechanisms of change in jurisdiction should be activated so that these cases could be investigated and prosecuted immediately by federal authorities. This Office also considers it fundamental to consolidate the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists [Mecanismo de Protección para Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas], and to strengthen the interagency coordination mechanisms between federal authorities and the various levels of government to ensure the proper adoption and implementation of protection measures, especially to those journalist in danger that were internally displaced.


Principle 9 of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression states: "[t]he murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."


When those crimes remain unpunished, it encourages the repetition of similar violent acts and could result in the silencing and self-censorship of media workers.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.

R 84/15