Freedom of Expression

Press Release R 124/14


R 124/14 



Washington D.C., October 17, 2014. – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalist and activist Atilano Román Tirado, radio announcer at the station Fiesta Mexicana 98.7 FM and community leader, which took place in the municipality of Mazatlán, state of Sinaloa, México. The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its concern and urges the Mexican authorities to take urgent action to establish the motive of the crime and to activate all the legal instruments available to identify and punish the perpetrators and masterminds behind this crime.

According to the information received, on the morning of October 11, Román Tirado was hosting his radio show ‘Así es mi tierra’, which airs on Saturdays on the station Fiesta Mexicana of ABC Radio, when strangers shot him inside the radio booth. The station is located inside the headquarters of the newspaper El Sol de Mazatlán. The activist died after being taken to a hospital. Román Tirado acted the leader of a movement of the community affected by the Picachos dam. The journalist regularly criticized local authorities in his radio show and exposed the government’s breach of its commitments to his community.

According to the information received, the Office of the Special Public Prosecutor on Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) opened an inquiry on the events and the prosecutorial federal police had reportedly acted on the case. For its part, the Office of the Public Prosecutor of the State of Sinaloa was advancing its investigations of the facts.

Additionally, the Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its concern over the disappearance of journalist Jesús Antonio Gamboa Urías, which reportedly took place on October 10 in Ahome, also in the State of Sinaloa. The Office of the Special Rapporteur calls on the Mexican State to adopt all the necessary measures to find the journalist alive. In its investigations, the State should not dismiss the hypothesis that the disappearance could be related to the exercise of the journalist’s work. According to the information received, the reporter is the director of political magazine Nueva Prensa and was last seen around midnight on October 10 in the business venue of one of his siblings. The journalist’s family filed a complaint before the local authorities on his disappearance. The information received indicates that the car used by the reporter was not found and that he was not answering his phone.

Violence against journalists in Mexico has been of particular concern to this Office. The Special Rapporteur urges the authorities to thoroughly investigate the hypothesis that these crimes could have been associated with the exercise of the victims’ right to freedom of expression or their human rights defense work. Similarly, 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 [Mecanismo de Protección para Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas], 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 IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression states: "[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."

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.