Freedom of Expression

Press Release R28-10







Washington, D.C., March 15, 2010 — The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses deep concern over the extremely serious escalation of violence against the press in the city of Reynosa, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The Office of the Special Rapporteur strongly condemns the recent kidnapping of several journalists and the possible murder of a reporter in circumstances that remain unclear. The Office of the Special Rapporteur exhorts the Mexican State to take the necessary measures to find the kidnapped persons, establish the cause of death of journalist Jorge Rábago Valdez and punish those responsible and adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the exercise of freedom of expression.


According to the information received, at least eight journalists were allegedly kidnapped in different circumstances during the last few weeks in the city of Reynosa. Five of them reportedly remain missing, two appear to have been released after being assaulted and forced to return to Mexico City, while Jorge Rábago Valdez, a journalist with the media outlets Radio Rey and Reporteros en la Red and the newspaper "La Prensa" in Reynosa, allegedly died on March 2nd in circumstances that remain unclear. While some local authorities appear to have claimed that his death was the result of natural causes as a consequence of a diabetic coma, other sources have informed leading nongovernmental organizations—such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)—that the journalist was reportedly found comatose with signs that he had been tortured, and that he died few days later.


Sources consulted by the Office of the Special Rapporteur have indicated that the actions of drug cartels in the area and the failure of the local authorities to prevent crimes against journalists and to make progress on investigating and punishing such crimes have produced a chilling effect so significant that only a few media outlets in the State of Tamaulipas dare to publish investigations or reports on organized crime or corruption. In this regard, it is of concern that the serious crimes abovementioned were first reported, days after they happened, by foreign newspapers and nongovernment organizations and not by the local press or local authorities.  

The criminal capacity and corrupting potential of organized crime is one of the most serious threats to freedom of expression in the region. Therefore, the fight against drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime should necessarily include a strong component aimed at protecting freedom of expression. It is particularly urgent that the State adopt permanent protection measures to guarantee the life and physical integrity of journalists at risk, that it federalize as soon as possible the jurisdiction to investigate and judge these crimes, and that it strengthen the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists.

Furthermore, bilateral and multilateral cooperation by concerned States should include a significant focus on the defense of journalists and human rights defenders, including financial resources to guarantee their protection, technical assistance to bolster ongoing investigations, and international solidarity in providing refuge to journalists or activists forced to flee by themselves or with their families as a consequence of their opinions, reports or investigations.

Violence related to drug trafficking has made Mexico the most dangerous country in the region for practicing journalism. In 2009 at least ten journalists were killed, while this year four journalists have reportedly been murdered. 

The Office of the Special Rapporteur recalls that Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states that "the murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats against social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media, violates the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restricts 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."