Freedom of Expression

Press Release 22/09


PREN R22/09




Washington, D.C, May 7, 2009 - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States deplores the murder of Carlos Ortega, reporter for El Tiempo de Durango, which occurred in Durango, México, on May 3, 2009. The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges Mexican authorities to investigate this crime promptly and effectively, and to duly prosecute those responsible.


According to the information published by local press and non governmental organizations, on May 3, 2009, Ortega was going back to his home in Santa María El Oro town, when two vehicles intercepted him, and unidentified persons pulled the reporter out of his car. As he tried to resist the attack, he was shot in the head several times. Ortega died immediately. The reporter was working at the El Tiempo de Durango. Days before, Ortega reported in an article that he allegedly had received threats from members of the local government in relation to an article he had published earlier regarding alleged acts of corruption.


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Catalina Botero Marino, requested Mexican authorities initiate an exhaustive and serious criminal investigation in order to duly punish those responsible. "A journalist’s murder is the most serious form of censorship. At least four other reporters were killed in the region during 2009, probably in connection with their work. But there does not seem to be satisfactory measures against impunity or suitable mechanisms to protect journalists at risk", she said. "Authorities should guaranty reporters’ security, so people like Ortega’s murderers do not achieve their goal of silencing them," the Special Rapporteur added.


According to information gathered by the Office of the Special Rapporteur, 20 media professionals were murdered in Mexico between 1995 and 2005 for reasons allegedly related to journalism. During 2006, 9 murders and one disappearance were reported. The following year, 3 homicides and 3 disappearances were reported, and in 2008, 5 murders and one disappearance.


Under the American Convention on Human Rights, 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 "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." The principle also says: "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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