Freedom of Expression

Press Release R125/18

The Office of the Special Rapporteur condemns the murder of journalists in Mexico and notes with concern the situation of violence against media workers

June 1st, 2018

Washington, D.C. – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression condemns two new murders of journalists in Mexico that might be linked to their journalistic profession. With this, the total number of journalists murdered in the country rises up to six cases this year.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur received information on the murder of journalist Alicia Díaz González, murdered on May 23, at her home in a residential subdivision of the city of Monterrey (Nuevo León), and on the murder of journalist Héctor González Antonio, whose body was found in a section of the Estrella colony in the city of Victoria, Tamaulipas, on May 29.

Díaz González worked in the newspaper "El Norte", for 20 years, and was a contributor to the national newspaper "El Financiero", since January 2018. According to the first investigations, a robbery would be ruled out as a motive for the crime because at the journalist's home there were no missing objects. Likewise, the Nuevo Leon Prosecutor's Office reported in a statement dated May 24 that the victim had "puncture wounds to the neck (nape)." The statement also mentions that all the lines of investigation are open and agents of the State Agency of Investigations [Agencia Estatal de Investigaciones] continue to gather scientific evidence to determine the elements that could lead to the capture of those involved. Deputy Prosecutor Luis Enrique Orozco Suarez pointed out that there are no precise indications linking the murder to her journalistic work, however, this line of investigation has not been ruled out yet.

For his part, González Antonio was a correspondent for "Excélsior" in Victoria and directed the journalistic news portal "Todo Noticias". His recent stories reflected the violence and corruption present in Tamaulipas state. The Attorney General of Tamaulipas confirmed the journalist's death and assured that he was already working on the first lines of investigation. According to the first investigations, the journalist died as a result of beatings, without yet being able to determine how they were caused.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur observes with grave concern the situation of violence against journalists in Mexico. So far in 2018, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has received information regarding 6 cases of murdered journalists, confirming the situation of risk and vulnerability experienced by media workers in Mexico. The Office of the Special Rapporteur calls on the State to exhaust the lines of research related to the exercise of journalism in each of these cases.

In 2017, 12 journalists were killed and at least 20 were displaced from their regions due to threats received, as well as attacks on their lives and personal integrity.

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.

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. (…) 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."

For the Office of the Special Rapporteur, it is essential for the Mexican State to completely, effectively, and impartially investigate these crimes, which affect all of Mexican society. It must establish the motives for them, and legally determine whether there was any connection to the victims’ journalistic activities. It is fundamental for the authorities to investigate the facts without ruling out the theory that the murders 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.