IAPA alarmed at fifth murder of a journalist in Mexico

Heber López Vásquez was murdered in Oaxaca.

Miami (February 11, 2022) - A week after sending a letter to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador asking to prevent violence against journalists, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today reiterated that request with greater emphasis in the face of a new murder, the fifth this year.

On February 10, journalist Heber López Vásquez, 39, editor of the RCP Noticias online site, died after two men shot him in his recording studio at his home in the port of Salina Cruz, Oaxaca state. The municipal police arrested two suspects. López received threats in 2019 related to his work.

IAPA President Jorge Canahuati called the incident "aberrant" and said, "This new crime, the fifth in recent weeks, fills us with impotence. We no longer know how to ask the government to administer justice and take measures to prevent violence against journalists."

Carlos Jornet, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, said: "We are concerned that if this wave of violence is allowed to continue, society will pay the consequences of having a journalism that, as a mechanism of self-protection, will opt for self-censorship."

Also, in Oaxaca, on January 26, the editor of Pluma Digital Noticias, José Ignacio Santiago Martínez, was the victim of an attack from which he escaped unharmed. He had two bodyguards assigned by the state protection mechanism. An armed group had kidnaped him in 2017.

Murders against journalists, impunity, and President López Obrador's "stigmatizing discourse" against the press weigh Mexico down as one of the worst countries in terms of press freedom in the Americas. As a result, Mexico dropped to 16th place out of 22 countries in the Americas evaluated in the Chapultepec Index, the IAPA's barometer for measuring press freedom, compared to 11th place in 2020.

Canahuati, executive president of Grupo Opsa, of Honduras, and Jornet, journalistic director of the Argentine daily La Voz del Interior, reiterated the request they made to the Mexican government last week. In the letter sent to López Obrador, they asked him to confront "with all his energy and determination" the attacks against the press.

The IAPA recalled the journalists murdered in Mexico since the beginning of the year: Heber López Vásquez, Roberto Toledo, Lourdes Maldonado, Margarito Martínez and José Luis Gamboa Arenas.

The organization also recalled that it presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 29 cases of murders with unresolved investigations, among them five cases from Mexico: Héctor Félix Miranda, Víctor Manuel Oropeza, Benjamín Flores González, Alfredo Jiménez Mota and Francisco Ortiz Franco.

Since 1997, when it held its "Hemispheric Conference on Unpunished Crimes Against Journalists," the IAPA has been asking governments to "open investigations into murders of journalists that have not been solved or officially closed without legal merit." It has also been asking multilateral organizations to condition economic assistance to those countries that do not protect journalists.

IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.