Report to the 75th General Assembly of the IAPA

October 4 – 7, 2019

Coral Gables, Florida

This period was marked by a high level of violence against the press that resulted in seven murders and due to the governmental ineffectiveness of the due functioning of a protection mechanism that did not manage to prevent, investigate, punish nor counteract impunity.

On August 26 the Mexico Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights delivered 104 recommendations to the government to improve the Protection Mechanism for People Defending Human Rights and Journalists. According to the report the Mechanism suffers from palliative measures, lack of staff and budget, a shortage of recognition of the work of human rights defenders and journalists, and permits a high level of impunity.

Jan Jarab, representative of the United Nations in Mexico, declared that this Mechanism has a reactive-palliative focus and it is recommended to give priority to prevention, but also to eradicate impunity. He explained that 55% of the presumed perpetrators of attacks upon journalists and human rights defenders were public officials, for which reason it is imperative to prevent, investigate and punish those attacks.

The head of the Unit for the Defense of Human Rights of the Government Secretariat, Aarón Mastache Mondragón, said that the major focuses of danger for journalists are Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Mexico City and Quintana Roo, and for human rights defenders are Mexico City, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Mexico State.

On May 2 Telésforo Santiago Enríquez, director of indigenous community radio station Estéreo Cafetal 98.7 FM, was shot to death by unidentified assailants in the municipality of San Agustín Loxicha, Oaxaca. The journalist was at the point of reaching the installations of the media outlet when he was intercepted in the neighborhood of Ampliación de las Tres Cruces. People close to him said that he was interested in rescuing Zapotec as the language in the area and used to open his microphone for people to express themselves about public problems. He had received threats.

On May 16 Francisco Romero Díaz, a police reporter and owner of the website Ocurrió Aquí (It Happened Here), was murdered in Playa del Carmen, a town in Solidaridad, Quintana Roo. His body was found near the La Gota bar alongside his motorcycle and showed signs of bullet wounds and blows to the face. There was arrested a person allegedly responsible for the murder, who the Quintana Roo Attorney General's Office identified as the probable perpetrator.

On June 11 Norma Sarabia, a 46-year-old journalist, was shot to death outside her home by assailants who shot her from a car. Her body remained stretched out in the Nicolás Bravo Avenue in Huimanguillo, Tabasco. She was a single mother and psychology candidate for the Chontapla Popular University.

On July 30 there was committed the murder of Rogelio Barragán, director of the website Guerrero al Instante. He was found without life in the municipality of Morelos. According to colleagues he was on his way to visit his family.

On August 2 Édgar Alberto Nava López, a journalist and official of the mayor's office of Zihuatenejo, Guerrero, was shot to death. He managed the Facebook page La Verdad de Zihuatenejo and was Director of Regulations of that municipality.

The same day there was murdered Jorge Celestino Ruiz Vázquez, in the municipality of Actopan, Veracruz. He was attacked with a firearm in the neighborhood of La Bocanita. He was a reporter with the newspaper El Gráfico in Xalapa, Veracruz. He had reported having death threats and previously his home had been shot at.

On August 24 Nevith Condés Jaramillo, director of the news website El Observatorio del Sur, was murdered in the town of Cerro de Cacalotepec, Mexico State. According to several sources he had reported that state police had shot at a helicopter that was transporting three women, one of them sick, in the town of El Rincón de Cristo. He had sought Article 19 support due to threats he had received. He also requested his incorporation into the federal government's Mechanism of Protection of Journalists. This never happened.

Of the 131 murders of journalists recorded by Article 19 since 2000, 11 of the cases occurred during the current government.

An IAPA mission to Mexico city and Veracruz state in September held meetings with national and state officials, and before the Foeign Relations Secretariat sought to untangle the cases of Víctor Manuel Oropeza and Héctor Félix Miranda, on which the IAPA had obtained recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and held negotiations to seek that the government recognize its responsibility and give reparation to the victims' families.

In Veracruz the IAPA urged the governor to follow up investigations into murders of journalists that are paralyzed.

The IAPA noted with optimism the formation of a group of media made up in this first stage of El Universal, Organización Editorial Mexicana, Televisa, TV Azteca, Cadena Fórmula, Milenio and La Silla Rota. This group has as its main objective investigating murders, following up matters that the murdered journalists were denouncing and combating impunity.

The IAPA mission echoed the denunciations and concern of organizations and sectors of civil society regarding the violent consequences that can give rise to the constant disqualification of journalists and media that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is accustomed to make on a daily basis.

On July 22 the president discussed with reporter Arturo Rodríguez of the magazine Proceso why "he did not behave well" with his government. He recalled the instrumental role of Francisco Zarco in the disputes about freedom of expression between liberals and conservatives in the 19th century, saying that "all the good journalists of history have always bet on transformations."