Freedom of Expression

Press Release R212/18

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns Murder of Journalist in Mexico and Urges to Redouble Efforts to Prevent Violence against Journalists

September 27th, 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 Mario Leonel Gómez Sánchez in Mexico and urges the State to redouble its efforts to strengthen its policies of prevention, protection, and law enforcement in the cases of violence against journalists.

According to the information available, on September 21, two unidentified persons on a motorcycle shot and killed journalist Mario Leonel Gómez Sánchez. The crime occurred at the time the journalist left his house, located in the municipality of Yajalón, state of Chiapas. According to the reports, the journalist would have sustained several bullet wounds.

The journalist was a correspondent for El Heraldo de Chiapas, newspaper of the Organización Editorial Mexicana (OEM)  and was dedicated to reporting on various topics among them, political issues. Likewise, he would have received threats in previous years and the last complaint was filed in 2017. According to official information, the Attorney General's Office would have provided protection measures against these threats, although it is not specified what measures were adopted and until when they were implemented.

The Attorney General of the State of Chiapas said in a press release that it "strongly condemns" the murder. It also noted that the Attorney General's Office "is aware of the importance of free journalism, reiterates its commitment to exhaust all lines of investigation to clarify this reprehensible crime and bring those responsible to justice".

According to official information published by the Attorney General's Office, this institution opened the investigation file and the start of the proceedings "in compliance with the protocols on the matter, consequently the Attorney General's Office in charge of the investigation" and a specialized group of the Attorney General's Office and experts went to the place where the murder occurred. In addition, it noted that "as part of the proceedings, Attorney General's Office staff analyzed the images taken from a video surveillance circuit where it was possible to locate the moment when two individuals on board a motorcycle pass in front of the victim's house, being the back passenger who operates a firearm, while the motorcycle is in motion".

Attorney General Luis Alberto Sánchez Sánchez said in the statement, "based on the evidence that this Attorney General's Office has, we can determine that the first line of investigation is the journalistic work, thus all the actions conducive to clarify this reprehensible crime are being carried, so that those involved are brought to justice, regardless of who is involved". The Attorney General's Office confirmed in another press release the arrest of one person and that others could be involved.

According to information provided by the State, the Homicide and Femicide Prosecutor's Office of the State of Chiapas [Fiscalía de Homicidio y Feminicidio del Estado de Chiapas], in coordination with the Attorney General's Office, carried out operations in which a person, who would have carried out surveillance activities on the location of the victim, was detained. Also, according to the information provided by the State, the person detained belongs to a gang of "narco-menudistas". In addition, the Attorney General's Office identified another suspect and does not rule out the participation of more individuals. On the other hand, the Anti-corruption Prosecutor's Office is carrying out the investigations related to members of the Municipal Police, in order to determine whether there was any administrative or criminal conduct related to the event.

With this homicide, at least nine journalists have been murdered for reasons allegedly linked to journalism. On August 29, Javier Enrique Rodríguez Valladares, a reporter for Channel 10 news, was murdered in Cancún, Quintana Roo state. According to the statement issued on August 29 by the Attorney General of the State of Quintana Roo, "in a preliminary manner it is known that the cameraman was out of his work schedule and without a uniform, so, for the time being it is discarded that his death is a direct attack on freedom of expression. However, all lines of investigation are open to determine how this criminal event occurred".

The Office of the Special Rapporteur values the statements of the authorities regarding the murders of journalists and highlights the progress of the Special Prosecutor's Office for the Attention of Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression [Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión] (FEADLE) in the investigation processes of the murders perpetrated against journalists. Javier Valdez and Miroslava Breach in 2017. However, this Office once again highlights that Mexico faces a deep security crisis that seriously affects human rights and, particularly, the safety of journalists. Consequently, it calls on the State to redouble its efforts to strengthen its policies for the prevention and protection of violence against journalists.

Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states: "[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) to encourage 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.