Press Release R 70/12
OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR CONDEMNS MURDER OF JOURNALIST IN XALAPA, VERACRUZ
Washington D.C., June 18, 2012 – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of police beat reporter Víctor Manuel Báez Chino, who was found dead in the early hours of June 14th in Xalapa, Veracruz. The federal and local authorities in Mexico are encouraged to take urgent measures to halt the wave of violence against journalists and to put into practice all of the available legal instruments to identify and sanction the perpetrators and masterminds of the latest crime.
According to the information received, three armed men in a van kidnapped the journalist on the night of June 13th when he was leaving his office in Xalapa. Police authorities reportedly conducted an immediate search that concluded when the body was found the following morning on a downtown street located near the Xalapa city hall and the offices of two local newspapers. Báez Chino was the editor of the police news section of the newspaper Milenio - El Portal of Veracruz, a publication of the Milenio Group, as well as editor of the news Web site Police Reporters.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its deep concern at the recurrence of extremely serious attacks against the press in Mexico, where at least seven media workers have been killed this year. Six of these deaths occurred in the state of Veracruz in circumstances that may be related to the victims’ journalistic work. On April 28th, journalist Regina Martinez of the magazine Proceso was found dead at her house in Veracruz with signs of violence; on May 3rd, 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; and on May 18th the body of reporter Marcos Ávila García was found in Sonora one day after he had been kidnapped. Furthermore, on June 8th, police reporter Hypatia Stephania Rodríguez Cardoso and her two-year-old son disappeared, later confirming that they are in hiding in order to protect their safety. The Office of the Special Rapporteur considers it essential that the reporter be given the necessary protective measures in an urgent manner.
As the Office of the Special Rapporteur stated in its Special Report on Freedom of Expression in México, the attacks against the press in this country have forced many media outlets to stop publication of news about corruption or organized crime as a safety measure, depriving the Mexican society of vital information. The Mexican State must immediately do everything within its reach to prevent new attacks motivated by the victim’s exercise of freedom of expression, to combat impunity for these crimes, and to prevent the silencing of the media. It is of great urgency that Mexico implements protection policies for media workers and break the cycle of impunity that invites criminals to commit further crimes against journalists. Protecting the press is essential to the battle against crime and the protection of democracy. To this end, it must be a priority for the Mexican state to apply the recently approved Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in an effective and urgent manner, to strengthen the Office of the Special Prosecutor on Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE in its Spanish acronym), and to publish immediately in the Official Register the provisions of the constitutional reform that gives federal authorities jurisdiction to investigate and try crimes against the exercise of freedom of expression, and which was passed on June 6th in the Permanent Commission of the National Congress. While the ongoing federalization process takes place, it is necessary to activate existing mechanisms so that the federal authorities can conduct the investigation of the murders committed, apprehend and sanction the responsible parties, and guarantee that those responsible provide just reparations to the victims’ families.
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.