Knight Center
Knight Center

JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

CPJ demands the Mexican government end a cycle of violence and impunity against the press



Mexico is one of the deadliest countries to practice journalism. This has been repeated in recent years by different organizations that defend freedom of the press both in the country and abroad.

Portada del informe "Sin Excusa" de CPJ (Captura de pantalla)

However, the "deadly cycle of violence and impunity" experienced by the Mexican press has reached such high levels that this issue must become a priority for the Mexican government, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) .

That was the reason for the publication of its special report 'No Excuse: Mexico must break the cycle of impunity in journalists’ murders,’ which will be officially presented in the Mexican state of Veracruz on May 3 in the framework of the World Press Freedom Day established by the UN General Assembly in 1993.

"In 45 days this year, four journalists were murdered and another journalist was saved by a miracle after being shot. [Mexico] has one of the highest numbers of murders and disappearances [...]. A total of 103 journalists were killed and are missing, plus four media workers. This is counting confirmed and unconfirmed,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas, to the Knight Center. "The fact that the cases are not solved and perpetuate the climate of impunity that leaves journalists vulnerable, has made us think for some time that we have to make a report."

According to figures from the organization, since 1992, the year in which they began to keep their records, 40 journalists have been killed in Mexico for reasons confirmed to be related to the exercise of their work. However, in the introduction to the report, Lauría notes that CPJ has recorded 50 homicides of journalists in the country since 2010, between confirmed and unconfirmed.

 “But in nearly every case of a journalist murdered in direct retaliation for their work, justice remains elusive and impunity continues to be the norm,” Lauría said in the introduction.

Regarding the lack of justice in these cases, Lauría points out how the country's impunity score "has more than doubled since 2008,” the year in which the organization released the Global Impunity Index for the first time. In this index, which lists countries where journalist killers are free, Mexico ranked sixth in 2016.

The report goes on to point out that in the few cases where there are captures and convictions, they are "limited" to material perpetrators, leaving the intellectual authors unpunished.

“By not establishing a clear link to journalism or providing any motives for the killings most investigations remain opaque. This lack of accountability perpetuates a climate of impunity that leaves journalists open to attack,” Lauría continued in the report.

To reflect this situation, the report details the murders of José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo, Marcos Hernández Bautista and Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz. "All three have made important progress, but the cases have not been fully resolved. This marks a dysfunction of the criminal justice system that obviously leaves journalists in a very large defenseless state," Lauría told the Knight Center.

In the case of Sánchez Cerezo, a report from the State Commission for the Care and Protection of Journalists (CEAPP for its acronym in Spanish) states that "several lines of investigation were poorly explored," according to CPJ. One of these lines would point to the alleged involvement of the then-governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte de Ochoa. The CEAPP report also details how “actions that could have secured the arrest of suspects were delayed or not taken,” CPJ added.

Sánchez Cerezo was forcibly removed from his home in Medellín de Bravo on Jan. 2, 2015. His body was found decapitated and mutilated three weeks later on a road about 15 miles from the municipality where he lived.

 “In a rarity for journalist murders in Mexico," according to CPJ, authorities arrested the alleged perpetrators and identified the alleged mastermind - the then-mayor of Medellín de Bravo, Omar Cruz Reyes. However, at present only one person is in prison, who confessed to having participated in the kidnapping of Sánchez Cerezo.

The ex-mayor Cruz is on the run, while another of the people involved was released in November 2015, because there was not enough evidence against him, and he fled months later.

Although the murder of Hernández Bautista, in January 2016, resulted in a sentence of 30 years in prison against a former police commander accused as a material perpetrator, it has not been possible to identify the intellectual authors.

His homicide, however, had an impact on Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, where it took place. Local journalists did not want to cover his death and the editor of Hernández's newspaper told CPJ that many of the reporters refuse to cover crime-related issues.

Gregorio Jiménez undoubtedly affected the journalist community. After his cruel murder in February 2014, his family lives with police protection, and although those accused of being responsible for his crime are imprisoned, the family of the journalist insists they are afraid.

His case and the shortcomings in his investigation led a group of 16 journalists to go to Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, to delve into what happened. Their findings were presented in a report that reached the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The CPJ report highlights that two of those three cases occurred in the state of Veracruz, "the deadliest region for the press in the Western hemisphere”. According to CPJ, between 2010 and 2016, at least six journalists were killed "in relation to their work.” These years were during the governorship of former leader Javier Duarte de Ochoa who resigned his position in October of 2016 after denunciations of embezzlement of funds and alleged links with drug trafficking.

Duarte was also singled out for allowing a climate of impunity in violence against journalists, according to CPJ. The former governor was captured in Guatemala on April 15, but has not yet been extradited to Mexico.

In its report, CPJ also presents some attempts by the Mexican government to counteract this situation, such as the implementation of the Special Prosecutor's Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (Feadle), constitutional reforms that give it more autonomy and the Mechanism Of Protection for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.

However, the report points to the criticism directed at these initiatives after their implementation. Through interviews with journalists, most of whom preferred anonymity, the report gives an account of the problems they face when they want to use the Protection Mechanism, or Feadle's problems in taking on and investigating crimes against the press.

According to CPJ, between Feb. 29, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017, Feadle opened 123 files, 10 of which correspond to homicides. "But since its inception, FEADLE has achieved only three convictions," the report said.

In January 2017, the Mechanism granted some form of protection to 499 people, 174 of whom were journalists. Since 2012, it has accepted 220 cases involving journalists.

However, according to information given to CPJ by the record-holder of the mechanism, it is only budgeted until September 2017.

"All [these developments] have occurred, but impunity remains in force. That is basically the reason the report has that title: 'no excuse'. Mechanisms were created, investigative bodies were created, the Constitution was reformed and yet impunity remains in force. Without excuses, Mexico must break the cycle of impunity surrounding the murders of journalists," Lauría told the Knight Center.



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