Freedom of Expression

Press Release R120/19

The Office of the Special Rapporteur condemns the continuance of murders of journalists and communicators in Mexico and urges the State to implement decisive measures to protect and combat impunity

May 17, 2019

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 Mexican journalists Francisco Romero and Telésforo Santiago Enríquez. Notes with concern that this is the sixth murder against journalists so far this year, and that most of them could be linked to the exercise of their function, a painful indicator of the persistence of violence against journalists in various regions of the country. The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the Mexican State to fully, effectively and impartially investigate these crimes, clarify their motives and determine the relationship they may have with journalism. At the same time, the State must review and implement decisive measures to strengthen the mechanism for protecting journalists in line with the recommendations made by the Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression in its recent special Report on the Situation of Freedom of Expression in Mexico.

According to preliminary reports of public knowledge, Francisco Romero, administrator and director of the Facebook information page "Ocurrió Aquí," had protection measures of the Protection Mechanism of the Mexican Government Secretariat due to previous aggressions. The journalist's body was found in the city of Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, on May 16 next to his motorcycle, with a shot in the head and signs of beatings in his body.

According to the information provided by the State of Mexico, the Attorney General of the State of Quintana Roo initiated an investigation regarding the murder of Romero taking into account all the lines of investigation, including his work as a journalist.

On May 3, while World Press Freedom Day was being celebrated, the media in Mexico reported on a new attack against the press in the municipality of San Agustín Loxicha (Oaxaca) that ended in the murder of journalist Telésforo Santiago Enríquez, founder of the indigenous community radio "El cafetal de San Agustín" and defender of indigenous languages. With a long career, the communicator was known for his analytical and critical coverage of the municipal authorities for alleged diversion of resources. Likewise, he was a candidate for the municipal presidency of his region on several occasions.

The General Coordinator of Social Communication of the Presidency of Mexico, Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, acknowledged the work of the journalist and committed himself to investigating the crime on his Twitter account: "Telésforo Santiago Enríquez was murdered this afternoon. He founded the community radio station El Cafetal de San Agustin Loxicha, municipality of the southern highlands of Oaxaca. From the Government of Mexico, we take on the commitment to find those responsible for attacking Mexican journalism."

This aberrant crime, adds to several cases of communicators who lost their lives this year: Samir Flores in Morelos (February 20), Jesús Ramos in Tabasco (February 9), José Rafael Murua in Baja California (January 20) ), and the indigenous communicator Gustavo Cruz in Oaxaca (January 20), who were allegedly murdered due to the journalistic and communicational work that they carried out.

The State of Mexico informed the Special Rapporteurship that regrets the succession of cases of murdered journalists. Moreover, expressed that investigative efforts are being made by the different Prosecutor's Offices. The State informed that not all cases reported might be related to journalistic activity.

According to data from the National Human Rights Commission [Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos] (CNDH), several Mexican states present a panorama of serious violence and silencing against journalists and communicators since 2000. In that sense, the most dangerous states for journalism are Veracruz (22 murders), Tamaulipas (16), Guerrero (16), Oaxaca (16), and Chihuahua (14).

"The alarming cases of journalists murdered in Mexico continue, as had been the case in previous years. This is an urgent call for the State to adopt decisive measures to strengthen the mechanism to protect journalists and strengthen the Special Prosecutor's Office for Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression [Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión] (FEADLE)", indicated the Special Rapporteur of the IACHR, Edison Lanza.

The rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR and the United Nations presented the Special Report on the Situation of Freedom of Expression in Mexico a few months ago, as a result of the visit accepted by the State in December 2017. Its conclusions and recommendations underscore that attacks against journalists "persist, accompanied by a continuous sense of insecurity and impunity." "The systematic nature of this violence requires not only specific individual measures but also measures of a structural nature." [...] "Compliance by the PGR of its responsibility to identify and investigate the risks faced by beneficiaries should be perceived as an essential aspect of any protection program," they added.

A positive sign in that sense is the reactivation of the Contingency Plan to prevent aggressions against journalists and activists that is implemented in Mexico for the State of Chihuahua. "We urge the Mexican government to intensify early warnings and other preventive measures, in line with its international obligations, taking into account the specific nature of the risks and their particular contexts," Lanza explained.

With regard to justice and impunity, the Office of the Special Rapporteur recalls that in the conclusions and recommendations presented in the Special Report on the Situation of Freedom of Expression in Mexico 2018, it should "give priority to investigating a series of cases of journalists whose contribution was fundamental for their communities. "

Both the Commission and the Court have referred several times to the chilling effect of crimes against journalists and other media professionals, as well as citizens who report on abuse of power or unlawful acts of any kind.

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 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.