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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

As murders of journalists rise globally, Mexico leads Latin America for media workers killed in 2018



Mexico continues to be the deadliest country for journalists worldwide that is not engaged in armed conflict. This was one of the conclusions of various press freedom organizations as 2018 comes to a close.

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Globally, the number of journalists targetted for their work was almost double in 2018 compared to 2017, according to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ).

According to the organization’s count, at least 53 journalists and seven media workers lost their lives between Jan. 1 and Dec. 14, 2018, of which at least 34 were deliberately murdered. According to CPJ, a total of 55 journalists and media workers died in 2017 and 52 were killed in 2016.

The number of journalists killed in combat or crossfire (11) was the lowest this year since 2011.

This increase in murders coincides, according to CPJ, with a sustained increase in the imprisonment of journalists, which was considered by the organization as a profound global crisis of press freedom. This would be closely linked to the technological changes that make it possible for more and more people to practice journalism without needing a media outlet to spread their message, the organization said.

CPJ also attributes this increase to the lack of international leadership in terms of the rights and safety of journalists.

The organization confirmed the deaths of nine journalists and one media worker in Latin America this year, accounting for four murders of journalists in Mexico, three between Colombia and Ecuador, two in Brazil and one in Nicaragua. It is also investigating eight other deaths of journalists in Mexico (6), Guatemala (1) and Brazil (1).

The four cases confirmed in Mexico by CPJ are those of Carlos Domínguez Rodríguez, Pamela Montenegro, Leobardo Vázquez Atzin and Mario Gómez.

The other six Mexican cases not confirmed by the organization that are still under investigation are those of Javier Rodríguez Valladares, Rubén Pat Caiuch, José Guadalupe Chan Dzib, Héctor González Antonio, Juan Carlos Huerta and Alejandro Márquez.

In most murders of journalists in Mexico there are indications of the participation of organized crime and government actors, according to CPJ.

In this regard, CPJ pointed to the term that the Mexican journalist covering judicial news Juan Veledíaz used to explain this phenomenon: "narcopolítica," where the interests of state officials, local politics and organized crime converge as an almost indivisible merger.

For Veledíaz, this situation poses a huge risk for Mexican journalists who cover crime and corruption.

In Brazil, CPJ confirmed the death of Jairo Souza, a radio journalist from the State of Pará who was shot dead by a motorcyclist upon arriving at the radio station Radio Pérola FM. The second confirmed case in Brazil was the murder of another radio journalist, Jefferson Pureza Lopes, from Edealina, State of Goiás, who led the program "A Voz o Povo" (La Voz del Pueblo) and who was killed with three shots to the head inside his house.

Among the cases not yet confirmed in Brazil is Ueliton Bayer Brizon, of the newspaper Jornal de Rondônia, in Cacoal, State of Rondônia. Bayer Brizon published regional issues on local and State politics.

In Nicaragua, it included the murder of Ángel Eduardo Gahona, a journalist who was shot in the head while broadcasting protests against President Daniel Ortega on Facebook Live.

Between Ecuador and Colombia, CPJ confirmed the death of photojournalist Paúl Rivas and reporter Javier Ortega who, together with driver of the Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio, Efraín Segarra, were kidnapped in March by a group formerly aligned with the FARC and later assassinated.

In Guatemala, the Committee has still not confirmed the causes of the murder of journalist Laurent Ángel Castillo Sifuentes, whose body was found with signs of torture in a plantation in Santo Domingo de Suchitepéquez, southwest of the capital of Guatemala.

International press freedom and freedom of expression organizations take into consideration different criteria when documenting the number of murdered journalists, therefore, figures vary between organizations. Some of these criteria respond to the type of journalism that the reporter carries out, whether they studied professionally, whether his death is directly related to his journalistic work, among others.

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According to the annual report of the organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF, for its acronym in French), the number of professional journalists (63), citizen journalists (13) and media collaborators (4) who were murdered in the world this year amounted to 80. In 2017, RSF reported 65 journalists killed.

More than half (61 percent) of the attacks against journalists in 2018 were deliberate and 38 percent of the attacks occurred while they were working. The majority of journalists killed were men (77).

RSF documented nine murders of journalists in Mexico, making it again the deadliest country in peace for journalists in the world. Additionally, it is third among the most violent countries for journalists, after Syria (11) and Afghanistan (15).

Nearly half of the journalists killed (45 percent) lost their lives in countries without armed conflict, according to the organization.

For its part, the International Press Institute (IPI) is investigating whether the death of Mexican journalists Rodolfo García González, Gabriel Soriano (Acapulco), Luis Pérez García (Iztapalapa), Alicia Díaz González (Monterrey) and Pedro Damián Gómez (Tijuana) are related to their professions.

From other countries in the Latin American region, IPI investigates the context in which journalists Marlon De Carvalho Araújo, from Bahia, Brazil, Karla Lisseth Turcios, from El Salvador, and Luis Alfredo de León Miranda, from Guatemala, were murdered.

Among other organizations, UNESCO documented a total of 25 murders of journalists in Latin America this year. Eleven of them in Mexico alone, three in Ecuador and Colombia, two in Colombia, five in Brazil, one in Nicaragua, one in El Salvador and two in Guatemala.

On Nov. 2 of this year, UNESCO launched the Observatory of Murdered Journalists in order to follow up on the measures adopted to punish attacks against press professionals.

According to the report of the Director General on the safety of journalists and the danger of impunity in 2018, a journalist or media worker is killed every four days in the world.



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