69th General Assembly

Denver, Colorado

October 18 – 22, 2013

This year had begun with promises that the level of violence against journalists belonging to news media would lessen, but the trend has in fact been the reverse, as the problem is worsening. In August the National Human Rights Commission reported that in the last 13 years 145 investigations into attacks on journalists had been initiated but only 14 cases had been brought to a conclusion, which amounts to an 86% level of impunity. According to the Commission the investigations were into 85 cases of murder and the disappearance of 20 reporters and 40 attacks on news media offices. Of these 46% came from public officials, 80% being local authorities. Journalists in Tlaxcala, Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Chiapas and Michoacán states experienced the worst conditions. In Tlaxcala there were libel suits, in Tamaulipas self-censorship increased, Veracruz saw a rise in attacks on journalists and in Michoacán there has been an upsurge in attacks with the involvement of the Army in the state. The most serious thing is that there has been an increase in the use by criminal organizations of police and journalists as emissaries, co-opted or by coercion, in states such as Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Michoacán. Deaths and disappearances that have been occurring since March show that in Chihuhua, Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Michoacán and Puebla violence has worsened. Added to this is that the Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists and Human Rights Defenders adopted by the Senate since 2012 continues to function slowly and deficiently. On March 6 in Chihuahua an armed group attacked the newspaper El Diario and Canal 44 television, both in Ciudad Juárez, breaking glass on the doors, but no one was reported injured. On March 15 Juan José García, 43, a technician with Televisa television in Ciudad Jiménez, Chihuahua, was kidnapped by an armed group as he was leaving his workplace. The Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office issued only a brief statement three days afterwards, claiming to be keeping the investigation quiet. To date his whereabouts and the motives for the abduction remain unknown. In April the photographer of the social section of the Coahuila newspaper Vanguardia, Alejandro Martínez Bazaldús, was hacked to death along with one of his young friends, Julián Alejandro Zamora, in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Saltillo. It happened early on April 24 and some hours later the local Public Prosecutor’s Office, without any investigation or evidence, or even having taken any eye-witness testimmony, in just a few hours issued a statement identifying the victims as members of organized crime. What did not appear in the statement was that alongside the bodies was a message addressed to the public, pointing directly to local police. Vanguardia called on the authorities to conduct a serious and professional investigation to show the truth of the matter, no matter how harsh it might be, and clarify whether the crime was linked to the victims’ work as journalists. On June 24 Mario Ricardo Chávez Jorge, editor and columnist of the newspaper El Ciudadano in Tamaulipas was killed near Reynosa two weeks after having been kidnapped. Chávez Jorge had since May 22 shut down his Twitter account in which he published information to alert people when violent events occurred. It is believed that the shutdown was due to the fact that he had received threats from organized crime groups. Alberto López Bello, a journalist for El Imparcial newspaper in the city of Oaxaca, was killed on July 17, 2013. The attacks in these last few months have increased, being carried out in broad daylight, but even worse with impunity. On September 14, during an eviction of schoolteachers in the Lerdo de Xalapa town square in Veracruz state Public Security agents attacked with electronic devices a dozen journalists covering the event, seizing their cameras and tape recorders. Three of those attacked, photographers Rubén Espinoza, Roger López and Ricardo Matus, filed a formal complaint with the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office for Dealing with Offenses Committed Against Journalists and the State Human Rights Commission, but it is not known if there has been any progress on the case. On October 2, during a parade in commemoration of the Tlatelolco Massacre in Mexico City, people watching the event, reporters, photographers and other members of various news media covering the parade were attacked during a clash between demonstrators and Public Security agents. The organization Artículo 19 reported that 79% of the attacks on journalists were carried out by police officers, who seized or smashed their equipment. On October 8 in Tuxla Chico, Chiapas state, journalists César Solis and Gandi Gutiérrez were attacked by schoolteachers and parents while covering a teacher protest demonstration. They have filed criminal charges against their attackers. On October 16 journalists Fátima Monterrosa and Víctor Olvera, with the program “Punto de Partida” (Starting Point) hosted by Denisse Merker and broadcast by Televisa television, were also attacked by teachers during a blockade set up in the road from Chiapa de Corso to Tuxtla Gutiérrez in Chiapas state. They were beaten, their hair was cut and their equipment seized. They have filed a criminal charge.