Fourteen years after the country’s military joined the war on drugs, crimes against Mexican press workers and their disappearance are emblematic of the systemic violence which has flowed from it.
Mexico remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. The IFJ has already documented 10 killings in 2020, added to the more than one hundred murders* (161 as of the date of this report) since 2006 - the beginning of the so-called "war against the drug trafficking".
A "war" that, following the decision of then President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa to send the Mexican army to fight cartels in the State of Michoacán, has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 Mexicans in addition to around 61,000 people going missing. Despite the declaration by current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2019 that the war was over, violence continues to wreak havoc on the entire Mexican population.
The IFJ has consistently monitored and denounced the violence against media workers in Mexico in numerous publications, statements and actions.
Rampant crime against journalists is widespread throughout the country. Violence, murders, disappearances, rapes and displacements of journalists affect large swathes of Mexico carried out overwhelmingly by criminal and paramilitary groups. Because of this violence and the need to silence critical investigations, journalists are especially targeted by groups belonging to organized crime and sectors of power in connivance with them.
Despite the fact that Mexico has, for years, adopted dedicated mechanisms designed to protect journalists, such as the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists and the Special Prosecutor's Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), crimes continued to increase, exposing the fact that such bodies have failed to deliver a guarantee of effective protection. At the same time, other state authorities, such as the judiciary, fail year after year to provide victims and their families with any kind of justice or reparation.
The National Commission of Human Rights of Mexico - launched on May 3rd (World Press Freedom Day) in 2019 - has recognized that there is "a level of impunity of 90% in the crimes of homicide, disappearance and attacks against media facilities", a percentage that rises even more when including other aggressions such as threats on social media.
An alarming number of missing journalists
Mexico is also - according to the National Human Rights Commission - a country with alarming numbers of missing reporters: between 2005 and 2009, 21 journalists were reported missing. Such is the case of journalist Agustín Silva Vázquez from newspaper El Sol de Istmo who was reported missing on 21 January 2018 and whose car was found the following day.
Among killed journalists whose killers remain unpunished are the emblematic cases of Javier Valdez, well known for his reporting on drug trafficking, who was killed on 15 May 2017. Impunity also remains in the case of Regina Martínez Pérez in April 2012, who worked for daily Proceso.
The killing of Miroslava Breach on 23 March 2017, who reported on organised crime, drug trafficking and corruption is one of the few cases that has ended with killers being sentenced.
Mexican media and human rights organizations described the sentence as "historic" and "emblematic" because it was the first trial for the murder of a woman journalist to be tried at the federal level which delivered a guilty verdict.
Very few cases have been solved
According to the Sindicato Nacional de Redactores de la Prensa (SNRP), the IFJ affiliate in Mexico, out of the total number of crimes committed against journalists, 95% have not resulted in a sentence for the killers or the masterminds.
According to Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul, a member of Defenders of Democracy, who conducted an exhaustive study of 140 murders of journalists that have occurred since the six-year term of former President Calderón, only four convictions and sentences have been confirmed, 12 people who have been condemned can still appeal. In 3 decades barely 5 percent of the crimes against journalists have been resolved and those responsible condemned.
Killings in Mexico: a global concern
The IFJ and the Federación de Periodistas de América Latina y el Caribe FEPALC launched a campaign: "Protect the messenger to get the message across" and undertook a joint mission to Mexico in 2017. They have spoken out and made public demands including during meetings with government, in media reports and social media campaigns as well as supporting cases demanding the punishment of the killers and the masterminds behind the murders of journalists.
For all these reasons, the IFJ has continued to urge the Mexican authorities to take urgent steps to increase the effectiveness of the Protection Mechanism for human rights defenders and journalists. In particular, it demands that the judicial authorities immediately resolve outstanding cases and make definitive progress towards reparation for the victims, so that Mexico can finally move forward in reducing the alarming levels of impunity.
To mark World day against impunity, the SNRP demands the government of Mexico justice for the murders committed against journalists and press workers, as well as the punishment of the killers and those who ordered the crimes against at least 161 media staff perpetrated in the last two decades. “We also demand that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador remains firm in his promise to put an end to the killing of journalists in Mexico and to end impunity for crimes against journalists, including those committed during his administration.”
* Source: CNDH México + IFJ Killed list
CNDH records 147 journalists murdered from 2000 to May 4, 2019. To reach the figure of 161, we add the cases registered by the IFJ.