Freedom of Expression

Press Release R68/16

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns New Killing of Journalist in Mexico

May 20, 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 May 14 murder of journalist Manuel Torres González in the town of Poza Rica, Veracruz, Mexico, and urges Mexican authorities to act promptly and appropriately to investigate the crime and to identify and punish both the direct perpetrators and the masterminds.

According to the information available, Torres was a correspondent for the TV Azteca station and a reporter for the Noreste newspaper. He had recently launched his own website called Noticias MT. He died after being shot in the head as he was leaving a government office.

This is the fifth murder of a journalist in Mexico this year: Marcos Hernández Bautista was killed on January 21 in San Andrés Huaxpaltepec, in the State of Oaxaca; on February 9, Anabel Flores Salazar was found dead in the State of Puebla; the body of journalist Moisés Dagdug Lutzow was found on February 20, and Francisco Pacheco Beltrán was killed on April 25 in Taxco, Guerrero. The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its deep concern over the fact that this figure is approaching the total number for all of 2015, when six journalists were murdered in Mexico.

The crime took place in Veracruz, one of the most dangerous states in which to practice journalism in Mexico. Last year, two journalists were killed in the State of Veracruz for reasons that may have been related to their work as reporters, and in 2014 the Office of the Special Rapporteur recorded one case. At the same time, a number of journalists from Veracruz have been murdered in other states. With regards to the complex situation of violence facing journalists in Veracruz, on November 2015 the Interior Ministry [Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB] issued an early warning system and contingency plan for the protection of journalists in Veracruz, consistent of a public policy program to prevent potential assaults against the journalists of the region.

The Mexican State informed that the Special Public Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression [Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos contra la Libertad de Expresión] (Feadle), the Office of the General Public Prosecutor of the state of Veracruz [Fiscalía General del Estado de Veracruz] and the Public Prosecutor Specialized in electoral crimes and in the attention of denounces against journalists and/or media workers north area [Fiscalía Especializada en delitos electorales y en la atención de denuncias contra periodistas y/o comunicadores zona norte] opened an investigation. The Office of the General Public Prosecutor of the state of Veracruz ordered protection measures for Torres’ family and offered psychological support. The Feadle, meanwhile, said that they had an interview with his family and that they expressed they did not want any protection measures "because they considered it was not necessary for the time being" and because "they did not feel their safety was threatened."

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.

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, 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.

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.