Freedom of Expression

Press Release R 48/15



R 48/15




Washington, D.C., May 8, 2015. – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of journalist Armando Saldaña Morales, found dead on May 4 near the town of Acatlan de Perez Figueroa, Oaxaca state, 350 kilometers southeast of Mexico City. In addition, it expresses its concern for the disappearance of journalist Bernardo Javier Cano Torres in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, which was informed on May 7 by the Office of the State Prosecutor.


The Office expresses its concern and urges the Mexican authorities to act promptly and timely to find the kidnapped journalist alive and to establish the motive of the murder, and to implement all the legal instruments available to identify and punish the perpetrators.


According to the information received, Saldaña Morales worked at "La Ke Buena 100.9 FM", a radio station in the town of Tierra Blanca, Veracruz state, about 30 kilometers from the place where he was found dead with several shots and signs of torture. The reporter covered local news and political conflicts in the region.


The Public Prosecutor of Oaxaca State, Héctor Joaquín Carrillo Ruiz, told reporters that an investigation has started "to establish (...) if he was first kidnapped  (...) or simply was killed in the territory of Veracruz and left at this place in Acatlan de Perez Figueroa."


According to the information given by the Mexican State, the Special Public Prosecutor on Crimes against Freedom of Expression [Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión] is investigating the case, the Federal Ministerial Police [Policía Federal Ministerial] was given the instruction to investigate the facts and the Office of Coordination to Prevent Electronic Crime [Coordinación para la Prevención de Delitos Electrónicos] of the Federal Police was ordered to investigate the editorial guidelines of the journalist murdered. The investigators also asked for surveillance camera recordings if they exist.


Moreover, the National Commission on Human Rights of Mexico [Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos] condemned the attack in a statement released on May 7 and informed that they "started ex officio a complaint file and took the case", "contacted the victim’s relatives to express solidarity and sent visitors to the area."


The state of Veracruz, where Saldaña Morales lived, is one of the most dangerous in Mexico for journalists. Earlier this year, journalist and activist Jose Moisés Sánchez Cerezo, also from that state, was murdered, and journalists from the area have reported threats on numerous occasions.


In relation to the journalist kidnapped in Guerrero, he has reportedly disappeared with three other persons that travelled with him in a van, and the authors of the crime reportedly asked a ransom for them. Cano worked at ABC Radio in Iguala, at a show called "Hora Cero". The town of Iguala has had events of significant violence recently and the Guerrero state is one of the most dangerous in the country for journalists.


The Office of the Attorney General of Guerrero informed they are investigating the case.


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 this crime was linked to the exercise of journalism, and to investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators and masterminds responsible for this murder.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur considers it essential for the State to clarify the motive for these crimes and adopt fair measures of reparation for the family of the journalist killed.


Moreover, the Office of the Special Rapporteur considers it essential to urgently assess whether the mechanisms of change in jurisdiction should be activated so that this case 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 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.