Freedom of Expression

Press release R157/22

Mexican authorities must stop violence against journalists and guarantee their right to freely and safely practice their profession

July 12, 2022

Washington, D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the incessant violence against the press in Mexico, which recently led to the murder of journalist Antonio de la Cruz and his daughter, who was with him at the time of the events. In this regard, this Office reiterates its call to the State to investigate and punish the facts with due diligence, impartiality and considering the possible link between the crime and the informative work, in order to avoid the repetition of these events and the inhibiting effect that impunity has on communicators. Likewise, it insists on the urgent need for the federal authorities to activate urgent actions for the prevention of violence against journalists, complementary to the measures underway.

According to information provided by the Federal Attorney General's Office (FGR) and the Tamaulipas State Attorney General's Office (FGJET), on June 29, journalist Antonio de la Cruz of the newspaper Expreso was the victim of an armed attack while he was in his car in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, together with his daughter Cinthya de la Cruz Martínez. According to the information reported, both died as a result of gunshot wounds. The investigation of the case has been taken over by the FGR through its Special Prosecutor's Office for Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE).

In the first half of 2022, lethal violence against the press in Mexico has taken on shocking proportions and has become the deadliest for the press, with a toll comparable to situations of openly declared armed conflicts. Between January 10 and June 29 the murders of José Luis Gamboa Arenas, Alfonso Margarito Martínez Esquivel, Lourdes Maldonado López, Roberto Toledo, Heber López Vásquez, Jorge Luis Camero Zazueta, Juan Carlos Muñiz, Armando Linares, Luis Enrique Ramírez, Yesenia Mollinedo, Sheila Johana García and Antonio de la Cruz and his daughter have been reported. The Ministry of the Interior of the State of Mexico informed this Rapporteurship that it only has a record of ten people murdered during this period.

The context of violence against the press in Mexico also includes a growing scenario of death threats and intimidation against journalists and their families, which has led to a generalized fear of the press to report on sensitive issues such as drug trafficking, corruption or organized crime. Among other events documented by SRFOE, journalists María de Jesús Peters and Juan de Dios García Davish, from San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, were forced to leave the country after receiving a death threat on May 13. Also, on July 2, journalist Susana Carreño, director of Radio Universidad and Canal 44 journalist, was attacked with a sharp weapon in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, and was reportedly seriously wounded and taken to a hospital.

The aforementioned facts are inserted in a context of hostility and reckless mistreatment by public officials and leaders towards the press, which threatens their integrity and increases the risk inherent to their work. This type of stigmatizing remarks have come from government authorities as well as from leaders of various political sectors. Among other recently reported facts, the leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has said that journalists "should not be shot to death (...) they should be starved to death".

In view of the foregoing considerations, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR points out that:

1.      The murder of journalists and communicators is the most extreme and repudiatory form of censorship, and cannot be tolerated or normalized in a democratic society. Faced with the escalation of violence against journalists in Mexico, it is crucial that the State provide a forceful and proportional response to the seriousness of the facts, which must include the emphatic rejection of the authorities at the highest level against all types of attacks and intimidation against those who exercise the journalistic function, and the recognition of such work for its contribution to democratic life. Through various statements, the Rapporteurship has made recommendations to the State focused on taking urgent institutional actions to respond to this phenomenon, and to prevent violence against journalists by avoiding stigmatizing discourse and sending messages of support for their work. However, the Rapporteurship notes with concern that these calls have not received sufficient reflection, attention and priority from the authorities.

2.      For the Rapporteurship, the fact that violence extends - with increasing frequency - to the families of journalists demonstrates the severe degradation of the minimum guarantees for the practice of journalism, and calls into question the validity of the rule of law for those who practice the profession in Mexico. It is essential that the State takes this perspective into account in the development of preventive measures, for example, by guaranteeing that the relatives of journalists at risk can also be beneficiaries of measures to protect their life, integrity and freedom of expression.

3.      In a critical year of lethal violence against the press in Mexico, it is reckless that public and political leaders do not reflect on their speeches and recurrently send confusing, erratic and contradictory messages about this type of events, which contributes to a high degree to the deterioration of the public debate.

4.      The Rapporteurship notes that the actions taken by the State to date have been insufficient and ineffective in stopping the increase in murders and physical attacks against press workers.

5.      Given the critical moment of the security crisis that the country is going through, this Office considers that the role of human rights observance by the international community -particularly regarding the situation of journalists and communicators- is essential in order to join efforts and encourage constructive reflection.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) 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.