Freedom of Expression

Press Release R30/17

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns Killing of Journalist Cecilio Pineda in Mexico and Urges the State to review Action of the Federal Protection Mechanism in the case


March 10, 2017

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 Cecilio Pineda Birto, which occurred on the night of March 2 in the State of Guerrero, Mexico. Pineda’s situation, according to the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, entailed an "extraordinary" risk after being victim of an attack and receiving threats regarding his journalistic work.


According to the available information two individuals on a motorcycle fired at the journalist while he awaited his vehicle at a car wash in the city of Altamirano. After the attack, Pineda Birto was taken to a clinic where he died. According to the information provided by provided by diverse organizations and media outlets, the journalist for a number of months had publicly denounced that he was receiving constant death threats from organized crime groups and that in 2015 he had been the victim of such an attack.


Pineda Birto was the director of the daily newspaper La Voz de la Tierra Caliente and a collaborator of the newspaper El Universal of Mexico City and covered local news associated with organized crime. He also reported through the social networks on episodes of corruption and criminal actions in the region of Tierra Caliente in Guerrero State.


According to the information contributed by the State, the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes committed against freedom of expression (FEADLE, for its initials in Spanish) attracted the case on March 3 and started an investigation.


For its part, the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists issued a statement indicating that they offered journalist Cecilio Pineda Birto protection measures after a news story was detected on September 2015. "The Mechanism determined through an urgent evaluation that due to the seriousness of the case, the ideal measure of protection was for Pineda Pinto to immediately leave the zone of risk. He accepted the temporary shelter offered for him and his family. The State informed the case was analyzed in 4 sessions of the mechanism’s Governing Board and after having carried out the corresponding field studies, the extraction proposal reiterated. According to the Mechanism, on October 26 the beneficiary reported that "it is not possible for him to relocate to the place of refuge, for which the Governing Board informed him that the record will be closed and in the moment he accepted the measure, he would be once again incorporated to the Mechanism."


The Office of the Special Rapporteur recalls that protection measures should not only be ideal to confront the risk and personal integrity of the journalist, but must also be adapted to the beneficiary’s social and economic needs and individual circumstances, including the need or desire of continuing to carry out the same professional activities. In that sense, it is necessary that protection measures be designed and implemented with the involvement of the potential beneficiary.


Given that temporary relocation as a result of extraordinary risk is an extreme measure, it is essential to the Office of the Special Rapporteur that the alternatives offered by the Protection Mechanism for the journalist’s protection before deciding to file protective measures are clarified. Equally crucial are the measures taken to determine the reasons that led to the case’s closure in order to prevent these situations from recurring. Likewise, it will be of great importance to know the results of the investigations for which Cecilio Pineda was victim of in 2015, and granted him protection measures.


For the Office of the Special Rapporteur, it is of fundamental importance that the Mexican State investigates fully, effectively and impartially these crimes, and clarify their motives as well as judicially determine the relationship that they may have with journalistic activity and freedom of expression.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses particular concern over the reiteration of this type of violent acts against journalists and employees of media outlets in Mexico. In 2014, there were 8 journalists killed in the country, presumably for the practice of freedom of expression, in 2015 there were 6 cases and in 2016, 11 such cases of killings of journalists presumably associated with their profession.


Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states that: "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 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.