Slaying of Sonora Journalist Reignites Calls for More Protections

Protestors gather in response to Ricardo Domínguez López’s killing. Photo: Cristina Gómez Lima, La Jornada

08/05/21 (written by rramos) – On July 22, journalist Ricardo Domínguez López was killed by a group of armed assailants in the parking lot of a shopping center in Guaymas, Sonora. At the time of his death, Domínguez López was director of local media outlet InfoGuaymas and also served as president of the Metropolitan Association of Independent Journalists of Guaymas and Empalme (Asociación Metropolitana de Periodistas Independientes de Guaymas-Empalme). 

The slaying of Domínguez López drew widespread condemnation. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) issued a press release denouncing the murder, and specifically called on Sonora authorities to investigate the possibility that Domínguez López was targeted because of his journalistic work. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador himself expressed condolences to Domínguez López’s family in his morning press conference the day after the killing, and reaffirmed the Mexican Government’s commitment to protecting journalists. 

Back in March 2021, Domínguez López expressed fears over threats and harassment that he claimed he had been receiving from criminal groups. In a formal complaint filed with the federal Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de la República, FGR), Domínguez López asserted that criminal elements were attempting to intimidate him and other journalists in Guaymas specifically because of their reporting. In the filing, he also lamented that although many media workers in the city had made numerous reports to various government agencies, journalists continued to receive threats, including from allegedly corrupt local officials such as the Guaymas public security commissioner

Recent Violence Against Media Workers 

The July 22 killing in Sonora follows a recent string of violent incidents targeting journalists and other media workers. On July 19, just days before Domínguez López was killed, radio broadcaster Abraham Mendoza died after being shot at point-blank range as he exited a gym in Morelia, Michoacán. Mendoza had become well-known in the Morelia area for his work on a radio news talk show in which he often criticized politicians, including some with ties to President López Obrador’s ruling National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional, MORENA) party. Similar to Domínguez López’s murder, Mendoza’s killing also attracted widespread attention, including a statement from the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

According to Animal Político, several other journalists throughout Mexico have also been murdered in 2021 so far, including cases in Coahuila, Mexico State, and Oaxaca. Along with homicides, disappearances represent another serious danger for media workers. This year alone in Domíguez López’s state of Sonora, two journalists—Jorge Molontzín and Pablo Felipe Romero Chávez—both went missing in March and have yet to be located. 

Reaction from Journalists

There have been some high-profile successes in resolving acts of violence against journalists recently. This includes the sentencing in June 2021 of one of the participants in the murder of Sinaloa journalist Javier Valdez and the February arrest of former Puebla Governor Mario Marín Torres in connection with the 2005 torture of investigative reporter Lydia Cacho. Nevertheless, the series of killings and disappearances of media workers this year has compelled journalists to demand greater protections, including more police protection for them and their families.

Days after the Domínguez López homicide in Guaymas, media workers from throughout Sonora, including photographers, camerapersons, reporters, and others also marched towards the offices of the state Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de Justicia del Estado, FGJE) in Hermosillo. There, the protestors delivered a document to Sonora Attorney General Claudia Indira Contreras calling for government officials to either redouble their efforts in investigating and prosecuting crimes against media workers, or resign. 

The exasperated response from journalists in the wake of these most recent aggressions appears to be justified. A 2020 report issued by the Reporters Without Borders found Mexico to be the deadliest country for journalists. According to the international non-governmental organization Artículo 19, at least 139 media workers in Mexico have been killed since 2000 for reasons related to their profession. Of these, 43 were murdered during the administration of current President López Obrador, according to data from the federal Secretary of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB). If authorities fail to heed calls for more meaningful actions to safeguard journalists and hold perpetrators of violence accountable, freedoms of expression and access to information may continue to be further jeopardized in the future. 

Sources:

“Periodistas desaparecidos en México.” Periodistas de a Pie. October 10, 2020. 

“Balance 2020: Periodistas Asesinados.” Reporteros Sin Fronteras. December 2020. 6.

Ahrens-Viquez, Ashley. “Ex-governor of Puebla arrested for the 2005 torture of journalist Lydia Cacho.” Justice in Mexico. February 9, 2021. 

Linares, Albinson. “Mexico is deadliest country for journalists, who also face government harassment.” NBC News/Noticias Telemundo. May 8, 2021. 

“Pasará 32 años preso El Quillo, uno de los asesinos de Javier Valdez.” La Jornada. June 18, 2021.

“Asesinatos de periodistas en México: resultado de la ausencia de una política pública integral de protección.” Artículo 19. June 21, 2021.

“Matan al periodista Abraham Mendoza cuando salía del gimnasio, en Michoacán.” Animal Político. July 19, 2021. 

Estrada, Jocelyn. “Asesinan al periodista Abraham Mendoza en Morelia, Michoacán.” Milenio. July 19, 2021. 

Jiménez, Adid. “Acribillan al periodista michoacano Abraham Mendoza en zona centro de Morelia.” La Prensa/El Sol de Morelia. July 19, 2021

“Asesinan al periodista Abraham Mendoza.” La Jornada. July 20, 2021.

“Asesinato de periodistas en México: Matan al reportero Ricardo López al Norte de Guaymas.” El Imparcial. July 22, 2021. 

“Periodista Ricardo Dominguez López de Info Guaymas es asesinado en centro comercial.” PolíticoMX. July 22, 2021. 

“El periodista Ricardo Domínguez López es asesinado en Guaymas, Sonora.” Expansión Política. July 22, 2021. 

Álvarez, Carlos. “Asesinan en su cumpleaños al periodista Ricardo Domínguez López, en Guaymas, Sonora.” Zeta Tijuana. July 22, 2021. 

Escobar, Amalia. “Asesinan en Sonora al periodista Ricardo López, director de Info Guaymas.” El Universal. July 22, 2021. 

“COMUNICADO DE PRENSA DGC/197/2021.” Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos. July 23, 2021. 

“Director-General condemns the killing of broadcaster Abraham Mendoza in Mexico.” United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. July 23, 2021. 

Aguirre, Ignacio. “AMLO se compromete proteger a periodistas tras el asesinato de Ricardo Domínguez en Sonora.” Línea Directa. July 23, 2021. 

Gómez Lima, Cristina. “Sonora: periodistas exigen garantías para trabajar.” La Jornada. July 24, 2021. 

“Periodistas de Sonora exigen justicia por asesinato de Ricardo López.” La Jornada. July 26, 2021. 

Martínez, Lorena. “Investigarán al comisario de Seguridad Pública de Guaymas por el asesinato de Ricardo López.” Expreso. July 26, 2021.

Martínez, Milton. “Director de seguridad de Guaymas es investigado en asesinato de periodista.” Proceso. July 27, 2021. 

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “Mexican journalist Ricardo López shot and killed in Sonora.” IFEX (International Freedom of Expression Exchange). August 4, 2021.

Arrest warrants issued in 2005 torture case of Lydia Cacho

Photo: Expansión Política.
Left to right: Lydia Cacho, Mario Marín Torres, and José Kamel Nacif. Photo: Expansión Política

12/14/20 (written by aahrensviquez) – Mexican federal prosecutors re-issued warrants on December 4, 2020 for the arrest of Puebla’s former governor, Mario Marín Torres; businessman José Kamel Nacif; and Pueblas’s former subsecretary of Public Security, Hugo Adolfo Karam Beltrán, for the unlawful detention and torture of journalist Lydia Cacho in 2005. This highly publicized case has largely been seen as illustrative of the dangers of being a journalist in Mexico and the government’s failure to hold those responsible to account.

The Case of Lydia Cacho

In 2005, Mexican journalist and activist Lydia Cacho published her book The demons of Eden: the power that protects child pornography (Los demonios del Edén, el poder que protege a la pornografía infantil). The book exposed the protection that businessmen Jean Succar Kuri and José Kamel Nacif were receiving from politicians and other businessmen when they were accused of creating a prostitution and child pornography ring. On December 16, 2005, months after the publication of her book, Cacho was arrested in Cacún at the Center for Women’s Comprehensive Assistance (Centro Integral de Atención a la Mujer) headquarters by members of Puebla’s judicial police force on charges of defamation. She was then transferred back to Puebla to face trial.

It was during her transfer, from December 16 to 17, 2005, that Cacho was tortured by members of the police force. According to ARTÍCULO 19, an independent, nonpartisan organization in Mexico and Central America that advocates for the freedom of press, during the ten  hours Cacho was detained, the authorities did not give her food or administer her bronchitis medication, nor was she allowed to sleep. Cacho was only allowed to use the bathroom once and place one phone call during this period. She was subjected to psychological and physical torture, sexual abuse, and threats.

Cacho was eventually released from custody on bail. She went to trial on January 17, 2006 and was fully exonerated on the charges of calumny. 

On February, 14, 2006, in an explosive exposé, an anonymous source publicized a phone call between Governor Marín and businessman Nacif that took place prior to Cacho’s 2005 detention. In the phone call, Nacif urges Marín to arrest Cacho so that she would be sexually assaulted in prison in retaliation for her calumny against him. The governor reassures him, saying that he will deliver a “f**king knock over the head” (“p*nche coscorrón”) to Cacho because in Puebla “the law is respected” (author’s own translation). On March 13, 2006, Cacho filed charges against Marín and Nacif, as well as other state figures.

15 Years of Impunity

In the 15 years since Cacho was detained and arrested, only two people have been sentenced in relation to the case. Two members of the police force, including former Puebla police commander Juan Sánchez Moreno, were convicted of carrying out the torture. So far, however, there has been no accountability for those who ordered the torture. 

The Cacho case eventually made it to the docket of the Mexican Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, SCJN). The justices launched an investigation of the case and the involvement of Puebla’s then-governor Marín. However, in a surprise ruling on November 29, 2007, the SCJN voted six to four to not go forward in prosecuting the case. The court found that though there were some violations of Cacho’s rights, they were not severe and did not merit the involvement of the SCJN. At the time, René Delgado, the former editor of the newspaper Reforma, called the 2007 vote a “monumental homage to impunity and cynicism” (author’s own translation).

Seeking justice elsewhere, ARTÍCULO 19 filed a petition on Cacho’s behalf to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations (UN). The Committee ruled in Cacho’s favor in 2018, formally recognizing human rights abuses against the journalist. They determined that Cacho’s detention was arbitrary, meaning that there was little to no evidence that she had committed a crime at the time of the arrest. The Commitee also found that the arrest and torture had been retaliatory in nature. Additionally, they noted that the sexual nature of Cacho’s torture indicated that she had been discriminated against because of her gender, a protected characteristic. Finally, the Committee found that the state had not fulfilled its obligation to investigate this case and hold those responsible accountable.

Two months after ARTÍCULO 19 presented their petition to the UN, Mexican federal prosecutors brought the charges against the police commanders that carried out the torture ordered by their superiors. In 2016 Succar, who Cacho exposed in her 2005, was indeed convicted of child pornography and child sexual abuse in Cancún and was convicted to 112 years of prison.

Arrest Warrants Issued for Marín, Nacif, and Karam

Finally, in April of 2019, arrest warrants were issued for Marín, Nacif, and Karam. However, they were cancelled in November 2020 by the Third Circuit Court in Cacún through a writ of amparo. Judge María Elena Suárez Préstamo of the First Unitary Court (Primer Tribunal Unitario) reissued the warrant on December 4, 2020 for their arrest after reviewing the case. Marín, Nacif, and Karam are currently fugitives. 

Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero reported in July that Nacif was traced to Lebanon and disclosed that they were in communication with the Lebanese government to process his extradition. Cacho sharply criticized Gertz in an interview with W Radio Mexico, claiming that she had located Nacif through her coordination with Europol and Interpol and Gertz had risked her case by making that information and strategy public. She also rebuked him for mishandling her case. She posited that through her work, she and her team also located Marín and Karam, but neither of them have been detained either. Cacho is suspicious that Gertz may have some vested interest in not seeing her case through.

2020 Continues the Trend of Violence Toward Journalists in Mexico

In an article in El País, ARTÍCULO 19 described the Cacho case as a “fight against impunity in one of the most violent countries in the world to practice journalism.” Indeed, violence against journalists in Mexico have been widely publicized and well-documented over many years. Justice in Mexico consistently includes a section addressing violence against journalists in its  yearly Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico Special Report.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), from 1992 to 2020 there were 53 confirmed cases of journalists killed, 67 unconfirmed cases, and four cases of media-support workers were killed in Mexico (“Explore all CPJ data”). The CPJ identifies both homicides cases with motives that have been confirmed to have been related to the journalist’s profession, as well as cases with unconfirmed motives. In fact, this year, the CPJ identifies Mexico as the country with the most homicide cases with five confirmed motives in 2020, followed by Iraq and the Philippines each with three confirmed journalist murders. In 2020, the following journalists were  murdered in Mexico:

  • María Elena Ferral Hernández of El Diario de Xalapa and El Quinto Poder was murdered on March 30, 2020;
  • Jorge Miguel Armenta Ávalos of Última Palabra and Medios Obson was murdered on May 16, 2020;
  • Pablo Morragares Parraguirre from PM Noticias was murdered on August 2, 2020;
  • Julio Valdivia of El Mundo was murdered on September 9, 2020; and 
  • Israel Vázquez of El Salmantino was murdered on November 9, 2020.

The aforementioned ARTÍCULO 19 has not released their most updated data on violence against journalists in 2020. However, the organization released their tallies for the first six months of 2020 (from January to June 2020). The findings are alarming. The report documented 406 instances of violence or aggression against journalists including cases of threats, harassment, assault, murder, and disappearance, among others. This is up 45% from the 280 cases they identified during the same period in 2019.

In an effort to address the violence against journalists, the Mexican government created the Mechanism for the Protection of Defenders of Human Rights and Journalists (Mecanismo de Protección a Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas). Its objective is to provide protection for journalists that were threatened, including temporary relocations, armored vehicles, and security escorts. According to the Mexican National Commission for Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos) report, there is a 90% impunity rate for crimes committed against journalists. Not only does the government often fail to protect journalists and bring their perpetrators to justice, public officials are often the perpetrators of said violence against journalists. ARTÍCULO 19 identifies public officials as the assailants of 199 cases out of the 406 cases of aggression against journalists that were identified in the first six months of 2020.

The Cacho case is a poignant, public exemplification of the issues facing Mexican journalists. She was victim to institutionalized torture at the hands of public officials in retaliation for holding power to account. Even with evidence against her assailants so widely publicized, she was unable to obtain justice from the government. Even now that her case was reopened, the arrest warrants have not been carried out, with very little hope that they ever will be. Moreover, she maintains that the justice system has continued to mishandle her case. Her public ire after 15 years is the same frustration that is inherent to being a journalist in Mexico.

Sources

“Gober precioso.” Youtube.com. February 13, 2007.

Relea, Francesc. “La impunidad ya tiene carta blanca en México.” El País. December 5, 2007.

Castro, Aída. “Cronología: Caso Lydia Cacho.” El Universal. June 2, 2008.

“Juez ratifica condena a Jean Succar Kuri por abuso de menores.” Regeneración. August 10, 2016.

“ONU reconoce violaciones a los derechos de la periodista Lydia Cacho.” ARTÍCULO 19. August 2, 2018.

“Demanda CNDH esclarecer el 90% de crímenes contra periodistas que permanece en impunidad lacerante- 13 en los últimos once meses-por falta de investigaciones prontas, diligentes, profesionales y eficaces de Procuradurías y Fiscalías.” Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. November 2, 2019.

“Syria, Mexico deadliest countries for journalists in 2019.” Committee to Protect Journalists. December 17, 2019.

Vivanco, José Miguel. “El luto del periodismo en México.” Human Rights Watch. June 11, 2020.

Calderón, Laura, et al. “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2020 Special Report.” Justice in Mexico. July 2020.

Hernández Zamora, Araceli. “El Fiscal tiró a la basura mi caso por bocón: Lydia Cacho.” W Radio Mexico. July 13, 2020.

“‘Todo lo tiró por bocón, por inútil’: Lydia Cacho acusó a Gertz Manero de echar a perder la investigación contra Kamel Nacif.” Infobae. July 13, 2020.

“Primer semestre de 2020: crecen exponencialmente las agresiones contra la prensa y continúan los asesinatos.” ARTÍCULO 19. September 14, 2020.

ARTÍCULO 19. “15 años de impunidad en el ‘caso Lydia Cacho’.” El País. November 16, 2020.

“Caso Lydia Cacho: De nueva cuenta se giran órdenes de aprehensión contra Marín, Nacif y Karam por delito de tortura.” ARTÍCULO 19. December 4, 2020.

“Vuelven a girar órdenes de captura contra Kamel Nacif y Mario Marín por tortura contra Lydia Cacho.” Animal Político. December 4, 2020.

“Explore all CPJ data.” Committee to Protect Journalists.

“Sobre ARTICLE 19.” ARTÍCULO 19.

Journalists and Media Workers Face Dangerous Rash of Violence in Mexico

journalist takes cover

A reporter covering the women’s march in Mexico City shields his eyes following an attack. Photo: Reuters.

08/22/19 (written by kheinle) — Mexico continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists and members of the media. Recent reports by international agencies highlighted Mexico’s ongoing, systemic failure to protect the press – both press workers and freedom of press. A rash of violence in several states and federal entities since late July further reiterate the dangers Mexico’s journalists and members of the media face on a daily basis.

International Context

According to Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Barometer, Mexico has three times more journalists killed (9) in 2019 than any other country worldwide. Afghanistan and Somalia trail with three journalists each killed this year to date, followed by Pakistan with two, and ten other countries with one each, including the United States. These numbers reflect homicides that were connected to the victims’ line of work. Human rights organization Article 19 also reports that “Mexico has a 99.1% rate of impunity on cases of crimes against journalists and media workers which are under investigation by the Special Prosecutor for Attention for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE).” Compounding these issues – or perhaps as a result of them – Mexico ranks as the 144th country on the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, improving slightly from its 2017 and 2018 ranking (147th).

These underlying issues were reflected in the recent three-week span of violence against the press starting in late July, as described below.

Morelos

The body of journalist Rogelio Barragán Pérez was found in the trunk of his car on Tuesday, July 30. His body had marks of physical injury to the head and neck. Barragán was the founder, reporter, and editor for the news website Guerrero Al Instante based in Chilpancingo, Guerrero. His body, however, was found 30-minutes away in neighboring Zacatepec, Morelos. Guerrero Al Instante covers crime and violence, among other topics, in the state. Prior to his death, Barragán stopped using his byline when reporting on the matter as a protective measure. Nevertheless, the 47-year-old journalist became the eighth journalist or media worker killed in Mexico in 2019, regardless if his/her profession played a role in the homicide. Prior to Guerrero Al Instante, Barragán worked for several other reporting agencies, including Ecos de Guerreros and Agencia Informativa Guerrero.

Images of three slain journalists

Journalists Jorge Ruiz Vázquez, Rogelio Barragán Pérez, and Edward Alberto Nava López (left to right) were all killed within four days of each other. Photo: El Universal.

Chihuahua

The Chihuahua-based news agency El Monitor de Parral announced that it was temporarily ceasing to publish its print version of its reporting. The agency was attacked in the early morning of July 31 with Molotov cocktails, bombs that caused physical infrastructure damage, but no loss of life. In a publication released shortly after the bombings, El Monitor said it was seeking a safer location from which to continue operating its printing services. It also announced that it would no longer publish stories that covered politics, crime, and violence. The communique closed with words of encouragement to its readers: “In the hopes that our readers will continue with us as they always have, we reiterate our commitment to journalism that has driven us for 58 years without interruption.”

Guerrero

On August 2, Guerrero-based journalist and municipal government employee, Edgar Alberto Nava López, was found shot to death in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero. Nava’s case parallels that of fellow Guerrero journalist Rogelio Barragán, who was killed but four days before. Nava founded La Verdad de Zihuatanejo, a Facebook-based publication, and used to work as a reporter for several other agencies, including El Diario de Zihuatanejo and El Despertar de la Costa. Nava, who reported on crime and violence, had received death threats just weeks prior to his murder, causing him to pull several of his stories from publication. He was the ninth journalist or media worker killed in Mexico in 2019.

Following Nava’s death, the Committee to Protect Journalists released a statement calling on the Mexican government to act. “Mexican authorities must carry out an immediate and credible investigation into the murders of Guerrero state journalists Rogelio Barragán Pérez and Edgar Alberto Nava López,” said CPJ Mexico Representative Jan-Albert Hootsen. “These brutal killings within days of each other are tragic consequences of Mexico’s failure to seriously address impunity in attacks on the press.”

Veracruz

Woman holds sign at protest

A protestor holds a sign at the women’s march in Mexico City. Photo: Article 19.

The same day as Nava’s death, another journalist was murdered in Veracruz. On August 2, Jorge Celestino Ruiz Vázquez, was shot dead in Actopán, making him the third journalist killed in just four days. Ruiz worked as a correspondent for newspaper El Gráfico de Xalapa covering crime and violence, among other topics. Similar to Barragán and Nava, he, too, reported having received threats because of his work. He had since stopped using his name on certain publications. According to a report from La Silla Rota, some of these threats even came from government officials, including Actopán Mayor Paulino Domínguez. The investigation into the case is still ongoing. Ruiz was the tenth journalist or media worker killed in Mexico in 2019.

The Committee to Protect Journalists immediately released another statement following Ruiz’s death just hours after that of reporter Nava, this time more directly addressed to the López Obrador administration. “As Mexico’s press mourns the killing of another colleague, the inaction of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s federal government is inexcusable,” said Hootsen of CPJ, adding that “this past week must be a catalyst for a comprehensive plan to stamp out impunity.”

Mexico City (Ciudad de México)

Almost a dozen journalists and media workers covering the second day of protests for women’s rights in the nation’s capital were physically assaulted or injured on the job. On August 16, 11 individuals reported complaints, including six reporters (including two females), two female photojournalists, two male videographers, and one male photographer. The media was covering the public’s protests and coordinated women’s march following reports of rape and sexual assault of several young females at the hands of Mexico City’s police. Mexico City was one of 18 cities throughout Mexico in which protestors took to the street, organizing under the social media platform #NoMeCuidanMeViolan to call attention to women’s issues.

For more information on violence against journalists in previous years, check out Justice in Mexico’s “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: Analysis Through 2018.”

Sources:

“Mexico: Report shows silencing of journalists and media freedom.” Article 19. April 17, 2019.

Calderón, Laura et al. “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. April 31, 2019.

“Posicionamiento por la agresión sufrida a el Monitor de Parral.” El Monitor de Parral. July 31, 2019.

“Mexican newspaper to stop publishing print edition after bomb attack.” The Guardian. August 1, 2019.

“Mexican journalist shot and killed in violent Guerrero state.” Reuters. August 2, 2019.

“Two Guerrero state journalists killed in one week in Mexico.” Committee to Protect Journalists. August 2, 2019.

“3 journalists killed in Mexico in less than a week.” Al Jazeera. August 3, 2019.

León Carmona, Miguel Ángel. “Alcalde intentó silenciar con 10 mil pesos a Celestino.” La Silla Rota. August 6, 2019.

“Third journalist killed in Mexico in less than a week.” Committee to Protect Journalists. August 6, 2019.

Bugarin, Inder. “México, el más mortal para los periodistas en 2019.” El Universal. August 11, 2019.

“Periodistas asesinados en el gobierno de Andrés Manuel López Obrador.” El Economista. August 17, 2019.

“Red #RompeElMiedo documenta incidentes durante de las protestas del movimiento #NoMeCuidanMeViolan.” Artículo 19. August 17, 2019.

Carrasco, Patricia. “Registran 11 agresiones a reporteros en marcha de mujeres.” El Sol de México. August 19, 2019.

“Allegations of Police Invovlement in Rape, Corruption.” Justice in Mexico. August 20, 2019.

“Mexico.” Reporters Without Borders. Last accessed August 20, 2019.

“Violations of press freedom barometer.” Reporters Without Borders. Last accessed August 20, 2019.

Violence Against The Press in Mexico

8/20/2018 (written by Quinn Skerlos)-  Earlier this summer, on May 29th, the body of Hector Gonzalez Antonio was found on a dirt road in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas.  According to authorities, Gonzalez Antonio’s corpse showed signs of being beaten, likely with rocks. The journalist, worked for Grupo Imagen’s TV and newspaper services, and covered a crime beat. On June 30th, Mexican journalist, Jose Guadalupe Chan Dzib was murdered in Quintana Roo, one of Mexico’s historically least violent states. Even more recently, journalist and founder of Playa News, Ruben Pat was murdered on July 24th also in Quintana Roo, bringing the journalist death toll for 2018 to at least 7. He had previously reported being threatened by local police.  A relevant report on violence against journalists by the Congressional Research Service highlights the occupational hazards that Mexican journalists like Gonzalez Antonio, Chan Dzib, and Pat experience and the counter-measures implemented to protect their line of work.

Congressional Research Service Report

On May 27, 2018, the Congressional Research Service (CRS, Library of Congress), a non-partisan research firm that provides policy analysis for the U.S. House and Senate, published a report on press freedom, or lack thereof, in Mexico. The author, Clare Ribando Seelke, is a Latin America specialist and well-published author, particularly on topics of human trafficking in Latin America. This recent report, titled “Violence Against Journalists in Mexico: in Brief” investigates the following; the status of press freedom in Mexico, violent crimes against journalists, Mexico’s efforts to address said violence, and finally, the role of the U.S. government in encouraging Mexican rule of law.

Mexican journalist Hector Gonzalez Antonio was found beaten to death in Tamaulipas.

Mexican journalist Hector Gonzalez Antonio was found beaten to death in Tamaulipas. (AFP/Getty Images)

The report leads off with a comparison of press freedom within Latin America, and a summary of crimes against journalists. Although press freedom has continued to decline across Latin America, the report argues that Mexico remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. The report highlights statistics from both Justice in Mexico and the Committee to Protect Journalists to show the hazards faced by journalists (CPJ). For example, in the last decade, Justice in Mexico reports that 140 journalists and media professionals were killed in Mexico. On that note, the report identifies that Mexico sports one of the highest murder rates for journalists in the world and is in the top 10 deadliest countries worldwide for media workers. In 2017 alone, Article 19, an international human rights organization, found that there were 500 “aggressions,” or violent actions against journalists not limited to just kidnapping and murder (Article 19). This number is significantly higher than the year before and Mexican journalists continue to face economic and psychological pressures, leading some to seek asylum abroad.

The report then delves into some of the efforts taken by Mexican officials to counter and reduce violence against journalists. According to the CRS report, the Federal Protection Mechanism, established by the Mexican government in 2012, has provided protection for 380 journalists by means of armed guards, panic buttons, and other resources. Another governmental initiative, the Special Unit for Crimes Against Journalists and Violations of Freedom of Expression (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión, or FEADLE) was established as its own office under the Attorney General in 2010. FEADLE has the authority to investigate any case, even if it is already under review by state authorities. However, the CRS report also underlines the shortcomings of governmental protections in Mexico. For example, the U.N. and other human rights authorities maintained that the Federal Protection mechanism is “surprisingly limited,” as studies have shown that some panic buttons lacked functionality and were structurally ineffective (OHCHR). These buttons reach only local police, who potentially lack the resources or the will to help, or are in the pocket of organized crime (OHCHR). Only 12.6 percent of cases investigated by FEADLE ended in convictions against perpetrators from 2010 until 2017, leading the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to state that FEADLE “still has not made any impact in combatting impunity (OHCHR).” The CRS highlighted a CPJ report that claims an 86% impunity rate for journalists killed as a result of their work (CPJ).

In its conclusion, the report underscores the U.S. State Department-sponsored Merida Initiative that has given 2.9 billion dollars in support of rule of law in Mexico. However, as the report points out, U.S. congressional officials have discussed concerns about human rights conditions in Mexico, including the Mexican government’s ineffective protection of journalists and human rights advocates. Governmental organizations receiving U.S. aid continue to be monitored, and in 2014 and 2016 Mexico was refused certain assets because they had not made sufficient progress on human rights issues. While there have been policy obstacles for the partnership, the partnership remains, with aid specifically directed towards strengthening rule of law, protecting human rights, and reducing impunity rates.

 

Press Freedom Currently, and in Relation to the World

Members of the press hold images of colleagues during a protest against the murder or disappearance of more than 140 journalists and photojournalists in Mexico since 2000, in front of the National Palace in Mexico City on June 1, 2018. (AFP PHOTO, Yuri Cortez)

Members of the press hold images of colleagues during a protest against the murder or disappearance of more than 140 journalists and photojournalists in Mexico since 2000, in front of the National Palace in Mexico City on June 1, 2018. (AFP, Yuri Cortez)

According to Justice in Mexico’s “2018 Drug Violence Report,” 133 Mexican journalists have been killed from 2006 to 2016. The report highlights that journalists in Mexico are three times more likely to be killed than the general public. Last year alone, 14 media workers were killed, including the prominent corruption and organized crime reporters Miroslava Breach and Javier Valdez. La Jornada, one of Mexico City’s daily newspapers, reported that Mexican journalists do not feel confident in government institutions to protect them, and that more than 60% of journalists surveyed have reported aggressions pointed towards them regardless of public protections (La Jornada).

Even with government measures, such as FEADLE and the federal protection mechanism, Reporters Without Borders listed Mexico as 147th in world press freedom for 2018, a worse ranking than South Sudan and Afghanistan (RSF). In a statement made by the CPJ, impunity “has made the country one of the most dangerous places in the world for reporters” and the 2000 acts of violence against journalists in Mexico recorded by the CPJ since 2012 seem to echo this sentiment (CPJ). Journalism across Mexico is being affected by violence and impunity, and while the government appears to have taken steps to help, there is room for improvement in order to fully protect press freedom and journalists in Mexico.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Aguilar, Roberto. “Condenan asesinato del periodista Héctor González Antonio.” El Universal. May 30, 2018. http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/nacion/seguridad/condenan-asesinato-del-periodista-hector-gonzalez-antonio

Calderon, Laura. Shirk, David. Rodriguez Feirerra, Octavio. “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2017.” Justice in Mexico. April 2018. https://justiceinmexico.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/180411_DrugViolenceinMexico.pdf

Linthicum, Kate. “Anther Journalist has been killed in Mexico- the sixth this year.” Los Angeles Times. May 29, 2018. http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-mexico-journalist-killed-20180529-story.html

Muedano, Marcos. “Feadle inicia investigacion por asesinato de Hector Gonzalez Antonio.” Excelsior. May 30, 2018. https://www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/feadle-inicia-investigacion-por-asesinato-de-hector-gonzalez-antonio/1242150

Olivares Alonso, Emir. “Periodistas desconfian de instituciones,” La Jornada, June 27, 2017. http://www.jornada.com.mx/2017/06/27/economia/003n2pol

“Mexicn Journalist Hector Gonzalez Antonio Beaten to Death.” Al Jazeera, May 30, 2018. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/mexican-journalist-hector-gonzalez-antonio-beaten-death-180530053135595.html

“Mexican Journalist Found Dead in Tamaulipas State.” Committee to Protect Journalists. May 30, 2018.  https://cpj.org/2018/05/mexican-journalist-found-dead-in-tamaulipas-state.php

“2018 World Press Freedom Index.” Reporters Without Borders. 2018.  https://rsf.org/en/ranking

“Libertades en Resistencia: Informe 2016 de Article 19.” Articulo 19. April 2017. https://articulo19.org/informe2016/.

“Preliminary Observations by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression of the IACHR following their joint visit to Mexico.” United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. December 4, 2017. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22484

“Journalist murdered in southern Mexico before Sunday’s elections.” Reuters. June 30, 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-violence/journalist-murdered-in-southern-mexico-before-sundays-elections-idUSKBN1JQ0ZT

“Journalist gunned down in Mexican resort town.” Reuters. July 24, 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-violence/journalist-gunned-down-in-mexican-resort-town-idUSKBN1KE2OL

Judges of Michoacán Affirm Their Commitment to Public Security

Marco Antonio Flores addressing the accusations made by Governor Silvano Aureoles. Source: Mi Morelia

Marco Antonio Flores addressing the accusations made by Governor Silvano Aureoles. Source: Mi Morelia

06/27/17 (written by Lucy Clement La Rosa)- On Monday, June 12th, Marco Antonio Flores Negrete, head of the Supreme Court of Justice in the state of Michoacán, delivered a public statement before Michoacán’s Supreme Court of Justice and various judicial officials promoting the objectives of Michoacán judicial authorities. The statement directly addressed accusatory comments of judicial negligence made by Michoacán governor, Silvano Aureoles Conejo, before the Ministry of Public Security’s (Secretarios de Seguridad Publica, SSP) National Conference on Wednesday, June 7th in Morelia, Michoacán.

At the conference, Aureoles asked judicial authorities to recognize their role in public security, strongly implying a lack of juridical vigor in the state of Michoacán. The Michoacán governor emphasized the ardent efforts of the state’s executive officials on behalf of public security. However, he argued that these efforts were in vain without the joint support of the judicial administration. Aureoles argued that executive and judicial officials were not acting with “the same velocity” against violence and organized crime in Michoacán. He pointed to judicial authorities citing insufficient evidence resulting in the release of an alleged Michoacán organized crime leader on June 7th. “This significantly discourages and disheartens the efforts made [by the SSP],” declared Aureoles (El Sol de Morelia).

In response, Supreme Court Justice Marco Flores publicly defended the judiciary and insisted that the actions of Michoacán judges and magistrates were in accordance with both federal and state legislation. He stated that Aureole’s accusations were “unfounded and unsupported” (Mi Morelia). Flores emphasized the role of the judiciary within the parameters of Mexico’s democracy, highlighting the importance of justice unhampered by political agendas. “At all times, we have respected the division of powers in the State, which is the basis of democracy that protects us from unilateral and authoritarian intentions (Mi Morelia).”

The Michoacán judiciary is fully in support of public security efforts against violence and crime, asserted Flores. However, he reminded his audience that all magistrates and judges must act within the parameters of Mexico’s constitutional rule of law. Indirectly touching upon the release of the alleged criminal mentioned by Aureoles, Flores added, “Hence, if you fail to prove, with legal, appropriate and sufficient evidence, the alleged criminal act attributed to a person…the judge is obligated to release him, because the Constitution expects and demands it.”

Aureoles’ divisive accusations elicited other responses as well. Javier Gil Oseguera, president of the Association of Judges (Asociación de Jueces de Primera Instancia), echoed Flores’ public sentiments. “Justice is given in strict adherence to the law, respecting the principles of equality (Quadratín).” Furthermore, Judge Ramón Sánchez Magaña, the judge with jurisdiction over the disputed release of the supposed criminal on June 7th, continued to endorse the decision to release the individual due to a lack of evidence.

Violence and Crime in Michoacán

The heightened tensions between executive and judicial officials on the topic of public security are set among increasing levels of violence and crime in Michoacán. As documented by the latest Justice in Mexico Drug Violence in Mexico (2017) report, Michoacán was the Mexican state with the third highest number of intentional homicides in 2016 with 1,287 homicides. This number was a significant increase from 2015 with 922 categorized as organized crime group (OCG) homicides.

Additionally, the Drug Violence in Mexico report highlights a pattern of violence in Mexico against two categories of special victims: public officials and journalists.  According to the report, Michoacán ranked as one of the deadliest states in Mexico for both public officials and journalists in 2016. This trend continued into 2017 with the abduction of Salvador Adame Pardo, a journalist from southern Michoacán. Adame has not been heard of since his abduction. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Adame had reached out to them with concerns for his safety.

Sources

Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2016.” Justice in Mexico. March 30, 2017.

Mexican journalist abducted in Michoacán state.” Committee to Protect Journalists. May 22, 2017.

Jueces deben dar la cara para que seguridad no sea “sólo por hoy.” El Sol de Morelia. June 7, 2017.

Exige respeto Supremo Tribunal de Justicia; ‘jueces dan la cara en audiencias públicas‘”: Flores.” El Sol de Morelia. June 12, 2017.

Poder judicial pide al ejecutivo se respete división de poderes y trabajo de los jueces.” Mi Morelia. June 12, 2017.

Se excedió, dicen jueces por declaración de Ejecutivo del Poder Judicial.” Quadratín. June 12, 2017.