Freedom of Expression

Press Release R53/12








Washington D.C., May 21, 2012 - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalist Marcos Ávila García, whose body was discovered in Sonora on May 18, the day after he was kidnapped. This Office expresses its deep concern over the repetition of extremely grave acts of violence against the press in Mexico, and requests from the authorities a diligent, timely and thorough investigation that adequately explores the hypothesis that the motive behind this crime could be the victim's professional activities.


According to the information received, at least three armed men with their faces covered kidnapped the media worker on the afternoon of Thursday, May 17, while he was at a carwash in Ciudad Obregón, state of Sonora. The authorities launched a significant police deployment to try to find him. On May 18, the reporter's body was found lying next to a highway, with signs of having been tortured and with an alleged message from organized crime. Marcos Avila covered police activities for the daily newspaper El Regional de Sonora from Ciudad Obregón. Mr. Avila was recognized as being a serious and very professional journalist.


The murder of Marcos Avila adds to at least another five crimes against media workers committed in Mexico this year that could have been motivated by the victims' professional activities. On April 28th, journalist Regina Martinez was found dead at her house in Veracruz with signs of violence. On May 3, the bodies of graphic reporters Gabriel Huge, Guillermo Luna and Esteban Rodríguez, as well as that of Irasema Becerra, an administrative professional for the newspaper El Dictamen, were also discovered in Veracruz.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur has been informed of the measures taken by the Mexican authorities to investigate the crimes against journalists.  In the case of Marcos Ávila, the National Human Rights Commission started an investigation ex officio and ordered that the victim's family and his supervisors be interviewed, and that the authorities' investigation be supported in every way. Regarding the homicide of the photographers, actions taken reportedly include the possible collaboration of the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic (PGR, in its Spanish acronym) and the designation of a special investigative commission led by the Office of the Special Prosecutor on Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE in its Spanish acronym). Similarly, with respect to the murder of Regina Martinez, the government of Veracruz put together a special commission of investigation and requested the participation of the PGR, the State Human Rights Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, as well as the participation of a journalist from the magazine Proceso, among other measures.


The attacks against the press in Mexico have forced many media outlets to stop publication of news about organized crime as a safety measure, depriving the Mexican society of vital information. The Mexican State must immediately do everything within its reach to stop the surge of violence against journalists, avoid impunity and impede the silencing of the media. It is of great urgency that Mexico implements protection policies for media workers, break the cycle of impunity that invites criminals to commit further crimes against journalists, and understand that protecting the press and human rights defenders is essential to the battle against crime and the protection of democracy.


Accordingly, it must be a priority to effectively and urgently apply the recently approved Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, strengthen the FEADLE, and get the states' legislatures to approve the constitutional reform that would enable the federal authorities to investigate and try crimes against the right to freedom of expression. While the ongoing federalization process takes place, activating the existing mechanisms for the federal authorities to conduct the investigation of the murders committed is necessary.


Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression states: "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."


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.


For more information on the Office of the Special Rapporteur, please visit: