Freedom of Expression

Press Release R44/12




Washington, D.C., May 4, 2012 – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of three photographers and the administrative professional of a newspaper, whose bodies were discovered in Veracruz, Mexico, on May 3rd.  The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its profound concern for the recurrence of extremely serious acts of violence against the press in Mexico, particularly in Veracruz, where at least nine media and communications workers have been killed in the last 12 months.  

According to the information received, graphic reporters Gabriel Huge and Guillermo Luna, who covered the police beat for several media outlets in Veracruz, had been missing since the evening of May 2nd.  The following day, their bodies appeared wrapped in plastic bags in a place known as Canal de la Zamorana 1 in the port of Veracruz.  The journalists had worked for the newspaper Notiver until 2011.  In addition to their bodies, the remains of Esteban Rodríguez, former photographer of the newspaper AZ and TV Azteca, and of Irasema Becerra, administrative professional of the newspaper El Dictamen, were also found in Veracruz.  In 2011, Huge, Luna, and Rodriguez had abandoned the state of Veracruz in response to threats they had received.

These murders add to the toll of the other five homicides of journalists committed in Veracruz during the past year.  On April 28th, journalist Regina Martinez was found dead at her house in Veracruz with signs of violence.  She was a correspondent for the magazine Proceso, a publication with nationwide circulation devoted to analysis and investigation, and she wrote critical articles about state politics and organized crime.   Noel Lopez Olguin, who disappeared on March 8, 2011 and was found on May 31, 2011, and who collaborated with different local media outlets; the columnist and assistant director of Notiver, Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco (known as Milo Vela) and his son, Misael Lopez Solana, who was a photographer for the same newspaper, were killed on June 20, 2011; and Yolanda Ordaz, a reporter for Notiver, who was found on July 26, 2011.  In 2011, at least 8 communicators and media workers died in Mexico as part of crimes that could be related to the exercise of their profession.  In its Annual Report of 2007, the Office of the Special Rapporteur documented that on May 3rd of that year, a human head was thrown in front of the headquarters of Notiver with a note saying "this is a gift for the journalists, more heads will roll as Milo Vela well knows."  The Office of the Special Rapporteur reiterates its concern for the persistent violence committed against social communicators in Mexico, particularly in Veracruz, and it calls attention to the fact that five of the victims have been linked to the newspaper Notiver.  The Office of the Special Rapporteur exhorts the Mexican authorities to act urgently in investigating these crimes in a prompt and diligent manner, to identify, try, and punish all of the responsible parties, and to guarantee that the perpetrators provide just reparations to the victims’ families.  

The Office of the Special Rapporteur takes note of the actions already taken by the authorities to investigate the crimes involving the journalist Regina Martinez and the photographers who were killed on May 3rd.  These actions reportedly include the possible collaboration of the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR, in its Spanish acronym) and the designation of a special investigative commission comprised of 10 experts and led by the Office of the Special Prosecutor on Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE in its Spanish acronym).  Similarly, with respect to the murder of Regina Martinez, the government of Veracruz put together a Special Commission of investigation and requested the participation of the PGR, the State Human Rights Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, as well as the participation of a journalist from the magazine Proceso, among other measures.  The PGR purportedly requested the case file from the Attorney General of Veracruz in order to determine the viability of collaborating in the investigation.

It is of utmost importance to halt this serious wave of violence against journalists through effective mechanisms of protection and investigation, which is why it is fundamental that the FEADLE be strengthened, that the recently passed Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists be implemented, and that the state legislatures pass the constitutional reform that would give federal authorities the power to investigate and prosecute crimes affecting freedom of expression. 

The Office of the Special Rapporteur exhorts the Mexican authorities to prevent impunity from prevailing when crimes are committed against communicators.  While the current process of federalization is being implemented, the Office of the Special Rapporteur believes it is necessary that urgent measures be adopted, so as to allow the activation of all existing mechanisms by which the federal authorities can assume control of the investigation of the homicides that have been committed.

Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression states: "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 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (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