Freedom of Expression

Press Release R11/16

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns the Murder of a Journalist in Mexico

February 11th, 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 murder of the journalist Anabel Flores Salazar, who had been reported missing in the State of Veracruz and whose body was found dead in the State of Puebla on February 9th, and urges the Mexican authorities to act promptly in the crime’s investigation for the identification and punishment of those responsible.

According to the available information, Flores Salazar served as a crime reporter for the local newspaper El Sol de Orizaba and had been reported missing on the early morning of February 8th in the city of Orizaba. According to the complaint filed by her family she was taken from her home by armed men, who arrived to her house in three vans and searched for her until she was found in one of the rooms and forced into a van in which they fled.

Mexico informed the Office of the Special Rapporteur that once it had knowledge of the events, the Veracruz Commission for Journalists Assistance [Comisión Estatal para la Atención de los Periodistas de Veracruz] opened a "protection extraordinary proceeding" to search for and locate the journalist and provide protection to her relatives. The Special Federal Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression [Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos en contra de la Libertad de Expresión (FEADLE)] and the Veracruz Prosecutor announced that they are investigating the crime. According to the State, the journalist Anabel Flores Salazar was not part of the Federal Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists and no petition was pending for her inclusion.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses special concern over the repeated incidents of violence against journalists and media workers in Mexico, one of the most dangerous places being the State of Veracruz. In 2014, eight journalists were killed in the country for allegedly exercising their freedom of expression and in 2015 another six cases were documented. This is the second murder of a journalist registered in the country this year.

Last year journalists José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo and Juan Mendoza Delgado were murdered in Veracruz, and reporters in the state have denounced measures of harassment on numerous occasions, such as Rubén Espinosa, who moved to Mexico City after receiving death threats in the region, where he was later killed.

With regards to the complex situation of violence facing journalists in Veracruz, on November 2015 the Interior Ministry [Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB] issued an early warning system and contingency plan for the protection of journalists in Veracruz, consistent of a public policy program that aims to prevent potential assaults against the journalists of the region.

The situation of violence against journalists in Mexico – especially in the State of Veracruz- has been of particular concern to this office. The Office of the Special Rapporteur recalls the obligation to exercise due diligence and exhaust logical lines of inquiry is particularly important in cases of violence against journalists, where an investigation that fails to take into account contextual factors such as a journalist’s professional activities will be less likely to succeed. 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 these cases could be investigated and prosecuted immediately by federal authorities.

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.

R 11/16