Freedom of Expression

Press Release R173/18

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns two new murders of journalists in Mexico and urges the State to implement recommendations on protection and law enforcement

August 7, 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 murders of Mexican journalists Rubén Pat and Luis Pérez García, and urges the authorities to investigate the possible connections of the crimes to the journalistic work of the victims.

Rubén Pat was the director of the weekly newspaper "Playa News" and, according to media reports, he was killed with a firearm in a bar in Playa del Carmen, in the municipality of Solidaridad, in Quintana Roo, on the morning of July 24.

According to the information available, Pat had received threats and, therefore, he had requested protection from the authorities. The State reported that he entered as a beneficiary of the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in April 2018 and his situation was followed-up. One month before the attack, Pat contacted the Mechanism to denounce that an unknown van was parked in front of his house. After this incident, the Mechanism had ordered permanent surveillance to his home.

In addition, after the assassination on June 29th of José Guadalupe Chan Dzib, a journalist who also worked in the same media outlet, the Mechanism ordered that the protection be provided by a permanent municipal police escort, but it is not clear if this protection scheme was present when the crime occurred. The Federal Mechanism reported that Pat had expressed that he trusted the Municipal Police, however, at this moment the Mechanism assures that it investigates if the police escort accompanied him when the events occurred.

According to civil society organizations, the murdered journalist reported that these measures were not enough given that the threats against him persisted, and that so he was working under fear. In 2017, the journalist was arrested and assaulted by the local police of Solidaridad, after the publication of an article about the links between the police and a local drug cartel.

Luis Pérez García was the director of the magazine "Encuesta de Hoy" and member of the National Association of Broadcasters of Mexico [Asociación Nacional de Locutores de México] (ANLM). According to available information, the journalist was also a social activist, focusing on political and community issues. García was murdered in his home, located in the Iztapalapa delegation, Mexico City, on July 10. According to media reports, the autopsy revealed that the death was caused by a sharp or pointed object, and not asphyxia, as was initially thought. According to available information, the perpetrators of the crime had set fire to the house in order to cover the crime.

The State has informed that the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression [Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión] (FEADLE), of the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic [Procuraduría General de la República] (PGR) initiated the investigations of the murder of Pat and Pérez García and that they remain open to determine if the homicides were related to the journalistic work of the victims. The State also added that, currently, the FEADLE sent work teams to the States involved to collaborate in the field with local prosecutors.

After these two cases, the number of journalists murdered this year in Mexico reaches eight. The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the newly elected government to redouble its efforts to ensure the protection of journalists and to fight against impunity, since the murders of journalists are a serious attack on freedom of expression and constitute a form of extreme censorship. The Protection Mechanism and the FEADLE should implement the recommendations contained in the Special Report on the Situation of Freedom of Expression in Mexico that account for the unsatisfactory coordination between the Federal and State levels, both to implement the protection measures, and to clarify the facts in full and sanction the material and intellectual responsibles. These recent cases are tragic examples of these problems.

As indicated in previous statements, the Office of the Special Rapporteur notes that this country faces a profound security crisis that seriously affects human rights and, particularly, the safety of journalists. In the Special Report on the country, this Office, together with the UN Special Rapporteur, affirmed that endemic attacks against journalists, as well as human rights defenders, undoubtedly represent the most immediate and challenging threat to freedom of expression in Mexico.

Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expressionof the IACHR states that "[t]he 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 is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in order to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.