Knight Center
Knight Center


Journalist seeking haven in Mexico City is killed, generating international outrage about violence against media workers

A journalist who had fled Veracruz out of concern for his life has been found dead in Mexico City, calling attention to ever increasing violence against media workers in Mexico and existing protection offered to those who fear for their lives.

He is the seventh journalist to be killed in the country this year and the fourth from Veracruz.

Rubén Espinosa, a photojournalist for Proceso newsmagazine, and four women were found dead in a Mexico City apartment in the middle-class neighborhood of Narvarte. Officials have not named the women, but reports have circulated via social media that a domestic worker, a student and an activist from Veracruz were among the victims.

Espinosa had been hit in the face and had sustained two bullet wounds, according to reports.

The hashtag #JusticiaParaRubén started trending on Twitter over the weekend to call attention to journalist Rubén Espinosa's killing and violence against media workers in Mexico. (courtesy Twitter)

Press advocacy organization Article 19 said his murder, the first time an internally displaced journalist was killed in the Federal District, marked a milestone in violence against press in the country.

“The violence that Espinosa suffered was known publicly, so that the killing of the photojournalist occurred without the authorities in charge of protecting journalists in this country moving a finger to help him. Article 19 is extremely concerned that Mexico City is no longer the safe haven that housed dozens of displaced journalists.”

In June, Espinosa left his home in Veracruz after being assaulted and harassed by unknown individuals, as reported by Article 19.

The organization reported that the photojournalist “who specializes in covering protests, said that covering local government events had been made particularly tough for him.”

While covering a student protest in 2012, he was threatened and stopped from taking photos of police beating students, according to Proceso. In September 2013, he was reportedly beaten by state police while covering the violent eviction of teachers from a  public square.

Espinosa worked to spread awareness of violence against journalists in the state of Veracruz and the country as a whole.

Before he left the state in June, he oversaw the placement of a plaque to honor investigative journalist Regina Martínez who was killed in 2012, according to Article 19. She also worked for Proceso and wrote about drug cartels, human trafficking and state corruption.

After he moved to Mexico City, he was interviewed by Sin Embargo about leaving his home. The publication asked him if repression governed in that state.

“Repression is going to be greater than we have today and we should remember that Javier Duarte [governor of Veracruz], at the beginning of his administration said that he admired Franco, this is a reference that people didn’t pay much attention to and now all Veracruz residents are living this. I’m just asking the people, the society and the journalists to pay attention to Veracruz, [they are killing the possibility for us to have freedom of expression].”

He concluded by saying "death chose Veracruz, death decided to live there."

This past weekend, Espinosa’s family had reported to Article 19 that he was missing and they in turn made a formal report to the Attorney General of Mexico, the Secretariat of the Interior (SEGOB by its acronym in Spanish) and the National Commission on Human Rights in order to activate protocols to locate the journalist, according to Article 19. The family said they had last heard from Espinosa on the afternoon of July 31.

Mexico City prosecutor Rodolfo Ríos Garza said at a press conference on August 2 that the government is following protocol for investigating crimes against journalists and women, as well as looking at robbery as a motive, but failed to mention that Espinosa had left Veracruz because of threats, according to the Associated Press.

That same day, thousands gathered at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City to protest Espinosa’s death. More gathered in Jalisco, Oaxaca, Nuevo León and Veracruz.

The hashtag #JusticiaParaRubén (#JusticeforRuben) started to trend on Twitter as social media users quickly rallied to spread word of Espinosa’s death, and more broadly, the growing violence against journalists and civil society in Mexico.

Protection for journalists

In 2012, the federal government approved the establishment of the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which is overseen by the Human Rights Unit of SEGOB, yet critics have pointed to serious problems with it.

The effectiveness of the federal office of the Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Against Freedom of Expression, which was restructured in 2010, also previously was challenged by advocacy organizations, such as Article 19.

Espinosa had not submitted his case to the Mechanism because “he was skeptical that it could really do something, given the history of the Mechanism,” Darío Ramírez, director of Article 19 for Mexico and Central America, said to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

Still, Ramírez said Article 19’s position is that authorities should have been closer to Espinosa.

Violence in Veracruz

Press advocacy organizations recently pointed to a higher concentration of violence against journalists in the southern states of Mexico, Veracruz in particular. Espinosa, who also worked for Cuartoscuro and AVC Noticias, is the fourth journalist from that state to be killed this year.

The body of Juan Mendoza Delgado, director of news portal Escribiendo la Verdad and previous police reporter at newspaper El Dictamen, was found on July 1.

The tortured body of Veracruz radio journalist Armando Saldaña Morales was found in Oaxaca on May 4.

Armed individuals forcibly took newspaper editor José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo from his home on January 2; his body was found on the side of a Veracruz highway 22 days later.

Twelve journalists have been killed in the state since Gov. Javier Duarte of the PRI has been in office, according to Article 19.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) previously said that Duarte’s government “has sought to dismiss any possible link between journalists’ murders and their profession.”

In July, the governor accused the press of collaborating with organized crime, according to the Los Angeles Times.

There was somewhat of a connection between Espinosa and Duarte. In 2009, Espinosa worked as a photographer for Duarte when he was a candidate for governor, Proceso reported. The journalist then dedicated himself to uncovering corruption and seeking justice for crimes against journalists.

Espinosa took a photo of Duarte that graced the cover of a February 2014 issue of Proceso which included a story about killings of journalists in Veracruz and alleged complicity of public officials to not clear the cases, according to Sin Embargo. Copies of the magazine quickly disappeared off of kiosk shelves.

Many fear Espinosa’s family will never see his killers brought to justice as Mexico ranks seventh in CPJ’s 2014 Global Impunity Index, which measures punishment doled out to killers of journalists.


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