The IACHR, Its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, and the Mexican Branch of the OHCHR Condemn the Murder of Journalist Lourdes Maldonado

January 28, 2022

Washington, D.C. / Mexico City, January 28, 2022 – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, and the Mexican branch of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) condemn the murder of journalist Lourdes Maldonado López in Tijuana, the third murder of a journalist in Mexico in 2022 so far. At the same time, the three organizations urge the State to promptly, thoroughly, and impartially investigate these events, establish any connections with Maldonado's journalistic work, and strengthen prevention and protection mechanisms for journalists.

Lourdes Maldonado addressed crime, corruption, and local politics in the state of Baja California and had been active as a journalist for more than 20 years. Throughout her working life, she had worked for various local and national media outlets, as well as presenting news programs on the radio and on TV. When she died, she had her own news program, addressing various matters of public interest.

According to the available reports, on January 23, 2022, unidentified attackers shot the journalist when she was inside a vehicle near her home. The Public Prosecutor's Office of the state of Baja California said its homicide experts had launched an investigation.

In 2021, Lourdes Maldonado was allegedly the target of several attacks that sought to intimidate her, including shots and blows on her car in March and April. The Baja California Public Prosecutor's Office said that, after that, the journalist had received protection from the state, including guard rounds, direct communication with the police, and a panic alarm.

On March 26, 2019, the reporter said she feared for her life during a press conference with the Mexican president. During that event, she asked the president for "support, help, and labor justice" concerning a labor dispute she had with Primer Sistema de Noticias (PSN), a firm owned by former Baja California governor Jaime Bonilla for which she had worked in the past. In the context of this dispute, four days before she was killed, Lourdes Maldonado had publicized a decision in her favor made by the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board (JFCA, by its Spanish acronym), along with the decision to seize company property in connection with this case.

The IACHR, its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, and the OHCHR are particularly concerned that three journalists have been reported murdered in Mexico less than one month into the year. Two of these killings happened in the city of Tijuana and at least two of the victims had reported to the authorities the risks they faced. The three organizations note with concern that the State failed to provide Lourdes Maldonado with the safeguards she needed to do her work safely and to prevent her death, as she had requested. The Special Rapporteurship said in the past that, while States have a constant duty to prevent violence against the press and to protect journalists who are at risk, this duty is heightened in cases where the authorities have been notified of specific risks faced by journalists.

In their Special Report on the Situation of Freedom of Expression in Mexico (2018), the Special Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression of the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) warned that one of the most significant challenges for freedom of expression in Mexico required "strengthening [...] national institutions responsible for fulfilling State obligations for the protection of journalists, and the implementation of a set of urgent, comprehensive and coherent strategies for prevention, protection and accountability."

Attacks against journalists in Mexico in January 2022 show that the State immediately needs to adjust and strengthen institutional mechanisms to protect reporters. The Mexican State has said it is working on the creation of a National Prevention and Protection System for human rights defenders and journalists. This system will rest on a General Prevention and Protection Act on Attacks on Human Rights Defenders and Journalists and will include the adoption of a National Prevention Model, the creation of National Attack Records, and the implementation of a National Protection Protocol. The Mexican government has said it has launched a series of regional talks to draft this National Act, so civil society—and human rights defenders and journalists in particular—have plural and inclusive spaces for participation. This joins other efforts made by the Mexican State, including an agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to create a mechanism to fund investigative journalism.

The IACHR, its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, and the Mexican branch of the OHCHR invite the State to jointly discuss urgent interinstitutional assessment measures to supplement the measures that have already been announced by Mexican authorities. The three organizations express their willingness to provide technical assistance to Mexican State institutions.

Impunity in attacks against journalists fosters further violence against reporters and may inhibit the exercise of freedom of expression. This is why the IACHR, its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, and the Mexican branch of the OHCHR welcome the commitment made by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for competent national institutions to conduct an investigation into the murder of Lourdes Maldonado. The IACHR, its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, and the Mexican branch of the OHCHR urge the State to ensure that this investigation is timely, effective, and impartial. Investigations need to take into consideration the complexity of the events in question, the context in which they happened, the patterns that explain their perpetration, and any potential links to journalistic activity. It is also crucial for investigations to be able to establish not only the perpetrators of these attacks, but also their masterminds.

The IACHR, its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, and the Mexican branch of the OHCHR express their solidarity with Lourdes Maldonado's family, colleagues, and friends, and call on the authorities to provide all assistance, reparation, and protection measures necessary in this and other cases involving attacks against journalists.

Finally, the IACHR, its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, and the Mexican branch of the OHCHR stress their commitment to working so people who exercise freedom of expression in Mexico can do so freely and without fear.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 020/22

6:30 PM