Freedom of Expression

Press Release R78-10


Nº R78/10




Washington, D.C., August 4, 2010—The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is deeply concerned over the taking of the news media and journalists as hostages in order to coerce media outlets to broadcast the messages of criminal gangs in Mexico. In the midst of the escalating violence being suffered by journalists in Mexico, the Office of the Special Rapporteur calls on the Mexican State to advance policies that improve protection of the press and of freedom of expression.


According to information that has been received, on Monday, July 26, a criminal group abducted cameraman Alejandro Hernández and reporter Héctor Gordoa of Televisa, cameraman Jaime Canales of Multimedios Laguna, and reporter Óscar Solís of the newspaper El Vespertino. The collective kidnapping forced the Mexican news media to give in to the kidnappers' demand to publish certain information. To save the lives of the abducted journalists, media outlets were forced to accept outside dictates on their editorial content and to censor themselves to avert any possibility of aggravating the victims' situation. With this incident, threats to freedom of expression in Mexico have reached an unprecedented level which affects everyone in the country.


From the moment the news broke about the journalists' kidnapping, this Office of the Special Rapporteur closely followed what was occurring. On Thursday, July 29, it requested information from the Mexican State and asked it to do everything in its power to save the lives of the four individuals.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur urgently requests the Mexican authorities to combat impunity in crimes against journalists by identifying and prosecuting those responsible for these crimes, a necessary step to prevent more acts of violence intended to silence, punish, or use journalists to broadcast criminal messages. To this end, it is essential that Mexico strengthen the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression, place the prosecution of crimes against journalists under federal jurisdiction, and implement measures to protect the life and physical integrity of journalists who have received threats.


At least nine journalists have been killed in Mexico in 2010. The body of Marco Aurelio Martínez Tijerina was found on July 10 in Montemorelos, Nuevo León. Guillermo Alcaraz Trejo was riddled with bullets on July 10 in Chihuahua. Hugo Alfredo Olivero died on July 6 in Michoacán. On June 28, Juan Francisco Rodríguez Ríos and Elvira Hernández Galeana were killed in Guerrero. Jorge Rábago Valdez was killed on March 2 in Tamaulipas, Jorge Ochoa Martínez was killed on January 29 in Guerrero, José Luis Romero was found dead on January 16 in Tamaulipas, and Valentín Valdés Espinosa died on January 7 in Coahuila. In addition, at least nine journalists have been kidnapped so far this year.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the State of Mexico to take steps that effectively protect the lives of journalists and discourage the repetition of these deplorable acts. It is an obligation recognized by the Mexican State to do everything in its power to guarantee the free and safe exercise of freedom of expression to all of its citizens. Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights establishes that: "The 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."


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