Freedom of Expression

Press Release R28/18

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns Murder of Citizen Journalist in Mexico, Urges Authorities to Investigate Relationship to Publications and Punish Perpetrators

February 14th, 2018

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 Leslie Ann Pamela Montenegro del Real in Acapulco, Guerrero. While expressing its strong condemnation of this premeditated crime, the Office also notes that an investigation has been opened, linking the murder to a crime group. It urges the authorities to continue to investigate with due diligence and to punish the direct perpetrators and masterminds.

According to the information available, the blogger was fatally shot on February 5 by individuals who burst into a restaurant she owned in the Costa Azul area of the municipality of Acapulco.

The blogger, also known as "Nana Pelucas," had been subjected to threats since 2016 through banners placed in different places around the port region of Acapulco. In addition, the Office of the Prosecutor General of the State of Guerrero reported in a press release that, prior to her death, Montenegro del Real had been threatened by a municipal government employee with alleged ties to a crime group led by Javi Daniel Cervantes Magno, alias "El Barbas," which had reportedly ordered the bloggerís murder. The same prosecutorís office stated that its principal line of investigation was related to the victimís recent publications on her online blog.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur has observed an increase in the number of journalists practicing their profession through web portals, blogs, and social media; there has also been an increase in the number of citizen journalists who, through a variety of technologies, share information and opinions on issues that are of public interest in the communities where they reside. The case of Pamela was precisely that of a citizen journalist who regularly investigated and published news of interest to her community through her blog.

This Office has recalled the need for States to protect journalists, and to prevent and investigate attacks on people who provide information through the Internet. In this regard, the Office of the Special Rapporteur of the IACHR, together with the United Nations Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and UNESCO, have repeatedly called attention to this phenomenon and the need to adopt a broad and functional definition of journalists for purposes of establishing protection mechanisms.

Following their recent on-site visit to Mexico, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, together with the UN Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, also underscored that, "Women journalists face specific threatening environments. According to reports by civil society there has been a 200% increase in attacks against women journalists. (Ö) Moreover, the lack of gender perspective in investigation, prosecution or protection stage, lead to inadequate attention to the particularity of the situation of women journalists."

In this context, the UN and IACHR experts recommended that the State "incorporate a gender focal point/unit or specialists on violence against women journalists and establish a training program within the FEADLE focusing in particular on attacks suffered by women journalists."

We additionally recall that the obligation to investigate with due diligence and exhaust all logical lines of inquiry is especially relevant in cases of violence against journalists; an investigation that fails to consider aspects tied to the regional context, as well as the journalistís professional activity, will be less likely to yield results. The Office of the Special Rapporteur insists upon the need to create special investigative bodies and protocols.

Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR 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 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.