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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”