Freedom of Expression

Press Release R134/16

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns Murder of Journalists in Mexico

September 21, 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 murder of journalists Agustín Pavía Pavía and Aurelio Cabrera Campos, who were gunned down in separate incidents that took place on September 13 and 14, in the States of Puebla and Oaxaca, respectively. The Office urges Mexican authorities to act promptly and appropriately to investigate the crimes and to identify and punish both the direct perpetrators and the masterminds.

Aurelio Cabrera Campos was shot several times while driving his vehicle near the town of Huauchinango, in the State of Puebla, on the night of September 14. Authorities were reportedly alerted to the incident by a telephone call, and although the journalist was alive when medical personnel arrived on the scene, he died hours later at the hospital.

According to the information available, Cabrera had worked for the newspaper Voz de la Sierra and had recently launched his own weekly publication, El Grafico de la Sierra, serving as its director. He was known for covering police and public safety matters in the northern region of the State of Puebla, an area adjacent to Veracruz that has a strong organized crime presence.

Agustín Pavía Pavía was attacked on the night of Tuesday, September 13 in front of his home in the town of Huajuapan de León, State of Oaxaca. He hosted a program on community radio station Tu Un Ñuu Savi, and was the second broadcaster from that radio station to be murdered in the span of 79 days, according to the information reported.

In addition to these cases, the Office of the Special Rapporteur is aware of the murders of nine other journalists 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; Francisco Pacheco Beltrán was killed on April 25 in Taxco, Guerrero; on May 14, Manuel Torres González was killed in Poza Rica, State of Veracruz; Elpidio Ramos Zárate was murdered in Juchitán de Zaragoza, State of Oaxaca, on June 19, and Pedro Tamayo Rosas was killed on July 20, in the town of Tierra Blanca, State of Veracruz. The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its deep concern over the spike in violence against journalists in Mexico this year in comparison to previous years, reflected in the increased number of journalists killed whose deaths may be related to the practice of their profession.

The State reports to the Office of the Special Rapporteur that the Office of the State Prosecutor of Puebla and the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) are working together to investigate the murder of journalist Aurelio Cabrera Campos, and that both are moving forward with the objective of exhausting all lines of investigation, including any possible connection to the exercise of freedom of expression. With respect to the murder of Agustín Pavía Pavía, the State has reported that the Office of the State Prosecutor of Oaxaca is investigating the crime.

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 Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states that "[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 such 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 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (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.