Freedom of Expression

Press Release R4/16

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns New Killing of Journalist in Mexico 

January 27, 2016

Washington, D.C. – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of journalist Marcos Hernández Bautista, which took place on January 21 in San Andres Huaxpaltepec, state of Oaxaca, Mexico, and urges the Mexican authorities to act promptly and timely to investigate the crime, and identify and punish the perpetrators.

According to the available information, Hernández’s body was found in a highway besides his car. He was correspondent for the local newspaper Noticias Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca and collaborated with some other media outlets. Hernández was also a public official at the local government and supported the political party Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional. Before being killed, he had expressed fear for possible retaliation due to the publication of articles that dealt with "political and cacique interests in the region," the editorial director of the newspaper in which he worked said.

According to the information given by the Mexican State, the Governor of the State of Oaxaca asked the Secretary of Public Security and the Office of the Attorney General of that state to investigate the crime. They added that the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists [Mecanismo de Protección para Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas] did not have any threats, aggressions or harassment registered against him, neither a request to provide him security, but that after the killing they were requesting information about the actions taken by the competent authorities.

The Office expresses special concern for the recurrence of this kind of violent acts against journalists and media workers in Mexico. In 2014, eight persons were killed in this country, allegedly for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and in 2015 six cases were documented. The state of Oaxaca has been one of the most violent for journalists in that country in the last few years.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the authorities to thoroughly investigate the hypothesis that these crimes were linked to the exercise of freedom of expression and the defense of human rights, and to put in practice all the legal instruments available to identify, prosecute and punish the perpetrators and masterminds responsible for these murders. The Office also considers it fundamental to adopt fair measures of reparation for the families of the journalists killed.

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, 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."

When those crimes remain unpunished, it encourages the repetition of similar violent acts and could result in the silencing and self-censorship of media workers.

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.