Freedom of Expression

Press release R223/21

The Office of the Special Rapporteur condemns the murder of journalist Jacinto Romero Flores and notes with concern the continuing violence against the press in Mexico.

27 August 2021

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 journalist Jacinto Romero Flores in the community of Potrerillo, in the municipality of Ixtaczoquitlán, state of Veracruz, on August 19, 2021, and notes with concern the continuing violence against journalists in Mexico. This Office calls on the Mexican State to investigate the facts in a complete, effective, and impartial manner, to clarify their motives and to determine whether the incident could be related to his journalistic activity.

According to the information available, Jacinto Romero Flores, aged 60, who hosted a programme on the radio station Ori Stereo 99.3 FM and on Radio Ixtac Online, was in the community of Potrerillo when he was attacked by armed men who shot him several times while he was driving his car, which was marked as a press vehicle. According to publicly available information, the state attorney general's office and the Ministry of Public Security have reportedly begun investigations and operations in the area.

According to information reported to this office, the journalist, who covered political, social and police issues in the Zongolica area, had recently reported threats linked to his reports on alleged police abuses in the municipality of Texhuacán.

The murder of Jacinto Romero Flores is the seventh registered by this Office so far in 2021 and is part of a worrying scenario of violence and threats against journalists in Mexico. For example, in early August, among other events, the Office was informed about an alleged death threat against journalist and news anchor of the TV channel Milenio, Azucena Uresti, as a result of her coverage of drug trafficking in the state of Michoacán, by a group of masked and armed individuals who in a video that circulated publicly claimed to represent a Mexican drug trafficking cartel.  The Rapporteur’s office also received information about a report of a kidnapping, robbery, and death threat against reporter Teresa Maraño, of the newspaper Proceso, in the municipality of Zinacantepec on August 13.

This Office reiterates its call to the State of Mexico to redouble its efforts to prevent violence against the press, which currently represents the most direct and significant threat to freedom of expression in the country. According to Principle 9 of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, "the murder, kidnapping, intimidation, threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of the media, violate the fundamental rights of individuals and severely restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of States to prevent and investigate these acts, punish the perpetrators, and ensure that the victims receive adequate reparation.

The Rapporteur’s Office also recalls that States must ensure that crimes against freedom of expression are subject to independent, prompt, and effective investigations and judicial proceedings. As has been emphasized on other occasions, there is nothing more permissive to the repetition of violence against the press than the absence of a forceful institutional reaction and impunity for these crimes. The lack of punishment for the perpetrators and masterminds of murders, assaults, threats, and attacks related to the practice of journalistic activity encourages the occurrence of new crimes and generates a notorious effect of self-censorship.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.