Freedom of Expression

Press release R191/20

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns the Murder of Journalist Pablo Morrugares in Mexico and Expresses Concern regarding the Persistent Violence Against the Press


August 5, 2020

Washington DC, - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of the Mexican journalist Pablo Morrugares Parraguirre and his escort --provided by the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists and Human Rights Defenders-- in the State of Guerrero (Mexico) and expresses its extreme concern regarding the persistence of murders against journalists and communicators. The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the Mexican State and its Special Prosecutor's Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) to fully, effectively, and impartially investigate the material and intellectual authors of the crime and determine the link that it could have to journalistic activity.

According to the information received, at dawn on Sunday, August 2, journalist Pablo Morrugares Parraguirre was in a restaurant in the city of Iguala (Guerrero), accompanied by a police officer who was serving as his security escort, when a group of armed men suddenly burst into the scene and shot both of them.

In the previous hours, around midnight, Pablo Morrugares Parraguirre had made a transmission on his Facebook page called "PM Noticias", in which he assured that the criminal group "Los Tlacos", linked to the trafficking and sale of retail drugs, had the mayor of Huitzuco, José Luis Ávila López reportedly under "submission", as well as taxi drivers and municipal police.

The journalist had already suffered an attack in 2016 from which he escaped unharmed, and after which he requested the protection of the Federal Government's Protection Mechanism. Among the precautionary measures that were granted was having a security guard. The State Attorney General's Office reported that it is investigating the murder of the journalist as well as the accompanying police officer, identified as Roberto Hernández. It also indicated that 55 R-15 rifle cartridges were recovered at the scene of the attack.

The Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists of the Ministry of the Interior informed to this office that they published a press release on August 2, 2020 condemning the murder of Pablo Morrugares Parraguirre and his escort, and urged the authorities and the State Prosecutor's Office of Guerrero to clarify the case and provide comprehensive care and accompaniment for his family members. The State also reported that the Protection Mechanism maintains communication with the relatives and will provide the corresponding accompaniment to the victims.

This Office has registered the murder of two other journalists in Mexico so far in 2020 that would be linked to journalistic work. Indeed, on March 30, 2020, journalist María Elena Ferral was assassinated as a result of several shots received, in Papantla, Veracruz state. Ferral worked as a correspondent for the Diario de Xalapa, was director of the Quinto Poder media, and also published columns denouncing acts of corruption in La Polaca Totonaca, a personal Facebook page. On May 16, 2002, Jorge Miguel Armenta Ávalos, CEO and owner of Medios Obson, was killed in an armed attack in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora state. The journalist had previously received threats and was under the protection of the Protection Mechanism. In addition, other murders of communicators have been reported whose link with the profession should not be ruled out a priori.

In the Special Report on the Situation of Freedom of Expression in Mexico of June 2018, the Office of the Special Rapporteur expressed serious concern about the deep security crisis in Mexico, which is largely evident with the persistence of homicides, disappearances, and torture of those who are most indispensable to publicize the situation of conflict and insecurity, corruption, and criminality: that is, journalists. The Office of the Rapporteur has indicated that the killings against the press seek to stifle public debate and civic participation and constitute a general attack on the essence of Mexico's democratic life at the local, state, and national levels.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur has recommended to the Mexican State the provision of more resources to the Specialized Prosecutor's Office for the Attention of Crimes committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) due to the magnitude of the problem of violence they face, and that this prosecutor's office exercise with determination its competence to prosecute serious crimes against the press. Likewise, it recommended to continue strengthening the Protection Mechanism for Journalists and Human Rights Defenders and ensure the effective application of its decisions and measures.

The murder of journalists constitutes the most extreme form of censorship. This situation of structural violence added to the lack of access to justice and due investigation represents today the most direct and significant threat to freedom of expression, and one of the most important challenges for human rights in Mexico. The State has the duty to investigate the violations that have been committed within its jurisdiction in order to identify those responsible, prosecute, and punish them correspondingly.

In accordance with principle 9 of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, "[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 calls on the Mexican State to fully, effectively, and impartially investigate this crime, clarify its motives, and judicially determine the connection it may have with journalism and freedom of expression.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) with the aim of encouraging the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given its fundamental role in consolidating and developing the democratic system.