Freedom of Expression

Press Release 166/07



Washington, D.C., May 18, 2007. The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the OAS requests an exhaustive investigation into the murder of Saúl Martínez Ortega, journalist for the magazine Interdiario and the newspaper Diario de Agua Prieta, whose body was found by local authorities on April 23, 2007, in the state of Sonora, Mexico. The Office of the Special Rapporteur calls upon the Mexican authorities to investigate this case swiftly and effectively in order to determine the cause of death and whether it was related to journalism activities and to duly punish those responsible.


According to the information received by the Office of the Special Rapporteur, the journalist was abducted at nighttime on April 16, 2007, by a group of armed persons. Saúl Martínez was investigating the kidnapping and killing of a municipal police officer in Agua Prieta in March of this year. The body of the journalist was found on April 23, 2007, in a ravine beside the Janos-Agua Prieta highway in the State of Sonora.


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Ignacio J. Álvarez, expressed his concern over this deplorable event, which joins a wave of murders, intimidation,, and assaults against social communicators in Mexico, mainly by drug dealers. "In 2006 the Office of the Special Rapporteur recorded nine murders of journalists in Mexico for reasons that could be related to their profession. The murder of Saúl Martínez Ortega occurred less than three weeks after the murder of Amado Ramírez Dillanes, which took place on April 6, 2007, in the city of Acapulco. We urge the Mexican authorities to act with due diligence to investigate these events and prosecute those responsible. States failing to conduct effective investigations can incur international liability determined by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights," said the Rapporteur.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur also expresses its concern over the disappearance of reporter Gamaliel López Candanosa and cameraman Gerardo Paredes Pérez, of TV Azteca Noreste, in the city of Monterrey, State of Nuevo León. According to reports, their whereabouts have been unknown since they went out on a reporting assignment in Monterrey on May 10, 2007. Gamaliel López had reported on murders in the region and, in recent months, on the presence of the Army in Nuevo León because of violence there.


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression requested the Mexican authorities to conduct a prompt and exhaustive investigation into both media workers’ whereabouts. "The disappearance and murder of journalists has become a recurring theme in some areas of Mexico. We urge the authorities to investigate the whereabouts of Gamaliel López and Gerardo Paredes and to take all necessary measures to enable social communicators to work without fear for their lives."


The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression recalls that, under the American Convention on Human Rights, the States have the duty to prevent, investigate, and sanction any violation of the rights recognized therein.  Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states that "[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."


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