Freedom of Expression

Press Release R22/16

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns the Killing of a Journalist in Mexico, the Third in that Country in the First Two Months of 2016

February 25, 2016

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 journalist Moisés Dagdug Lutzow, who had denounced threats against him and whose body was found on February 20 in the State of Tabasco, Mexico, and urges the Mexican authorities to act in a prompt and timely manner to investigate the crime and identify and punish those responsible.

According to available information, Dagdug Lutzow was known as the owner of the Grupo VX media company and for his program on radio station XEVX La grande de Tabasco. The journalist stated on diverse occasions that he had been the victim of anonymous verbal intimidations, supposedly due to his criticisms of the government of the State of Tabasco, headed by Arturo Núñez Jiménez.

The murder took place in the early hours of February 20 in the journalist’s residence, where attackers stabbed the 65-year-old man and then stole his vehicle, which hours later was found on a highway in the city of Villahermosa. According to local authorities, witnesses reported that they saw two individuals leave the vehicle.

The State of Mexico informed that the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Tabasco [Fiscalía General del Estado] began a preliminary investigation and has carried out diverse field investigations, consisting of a criminalistics search of his home and the robbed vehicle, and taking statements from the journalist’s colleagues, to determine if the crime was linked to his exercise of freedom of expression. The Special Public Prosecutor on Crimes against Freedom of Expression [Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión] also started a preliminary investigation.

In 2014 eight journalists were murdered in Mexico, presumably due to exercise of the freedom of expression and in 2015 there were six cases. This is the third killing of a journalist reported in the country this year: on January 21, journalist Marcos Hernández Bautista was killed in San Andrés Huaxpaltepec, in the State of Oaxaca, and on February 9, Anabel Flores Salazar was found dead in the State of Puebla.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the authorities to exhaustively investigate the hypothesis according to which these crimes are associated with exercise of the freedom of expression and the defense of human rights, and to use all available means to identify, prosecute and punish those responsible for committing and masterminding the crimes. It also views the adoption of fair means of reparation for the victims’ family members as of fundamental importance.

The situation of violence against men and women journalists in Mexico has been a source of special concern for this office. The Office emphasizes that the obligation to conduct the investigation with due diligence and exhaust all logical lines of investigation is particularly relevant in cases of violence against journalists; an investigation that fails to weigh aspects linked to the context of the region as well as the journalist’s professional activity, will have fewer possibilities of achieving results. The Office of the Special Rapporteur also places fundamental importance on urgently evaluating whether the mechanisms of change in jurisdiction should be activated and to determine whether this case can be immediately investigated and prosecuted by the federal authorities.

Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states: "[t]he murder, kidnapping and intimidation and threats made against journalists, along with the material destruction of the media, violate the fundamental rights of people and severely restrict freedom of expression. The States have the duty to prevent and investigate these events, punish their perpetrators and ensure adequate reparation for the victims."

When such crimes remain in impunity, this encourages the commission of similar violent acts and can result in the silencing and self-censorship of men and women journalists. 

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, and its role is considered fundamental in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.