Freedom of Expression

Press Release R115/18

The Special Rapporteur condemns murder of journalist in Mexico and urged to investigate relationship with his journalistic activity

 May 24th, 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 Juan Carlos Huerta in Villahermosa city, capital city of the State of Tabasco, Mexico. It urges the authorities to investigate with due diligence and clarify their possible relationship with journalistic activity.

According to the information available, radio and television journalist Juan Carlos Huerta Martinez was killed on 15 may, in the morning, after leaving his home in Villahermosa. According to media, the journalist received at least four gun shots. Huerta Martinez was conductor both of the radio news "Panorama Sin Reserva", that it deals with local political realities, one of the most influential in the State, as well as TV news "Notinueve".

According to press reports, the journalist founded in 2017 its radio station, "Multimedios sin reserva", with which agreed to a concession in the band 620 am, where transmitted, beginning this year, his own newscast "La Radio que se ve".

The journalist's murder was confirmed according to various media and by the Governor of the State of Tabasco, Arturo Núñez Jiménez, who also ruled out that the execution has been derived from an attempted robbery, since all indications would aim to that execution was the target of the criminals. He also said that they were able to identify the vehicle in which the perpetrators were flight so deployed a strong operation in the area. Also, after the fact would have arrived to the place the State Attorney's Fernando Valenzuela Pernas.

According to the information provided by the State, the Attorney General of Tabasco immediately began investigations of the facts and granted provisional measures of protection to ensure the physical integrity of the victim's relatives and other close relationships. The State reported that the local prosecutor's office requested the support of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (Feadle)  within the  Attorney General Office. The Tabasco Government condemned and deplored the murder of journalist Juan Carlos Huerta in a public statement.

The Special Rapporteur noted in his recent visit to the country that Mexico faces a deep security crisis that severely affects human rights and, in particular, the safety of journalists. The endemic attacks against journalists and human rights defenders people, undoubtedly represent the threat more immediate and challenging freedom of expression in Mexico.

For the Office of the Special Rapporteur, it is essential for the Mexican State to completely, effectively, and impartially investigate this crime that affects all of Mexican society. It must establish the motives for it, and legally determine whether there was any connection with his activity as a communicator. In this sense, it is fundamental for the authorities to investigate the facts without ruling out the theory that the murder may have been connected to journalistic activity and freedom of expression. 

In addition, we 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 journalist’s 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.

Both the Commission and the Inter-American Court have addressed the chilling effect that crimes against journalists have on other media professionals, as well as on citizens who intend to report abuses of power or unlawful acts of any kind. This chilling effect can only be prevented, according to the Commission, "by swift action on the part of the State to punish all perpetrators, as is its duty under international and domestic law."

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.