Francisco Ortiz Franco, Twenty Years of Impunity

IAPA's Campaign "Voices Claiming Justice"

Miami (June 21, 2024) – On the twentieth anniversary of the murder of Francisco Javier Ortiz Franco, co-founder and editor of the weekly newspaper Zeta in Tijuana, Mexico, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) reiterates its call to the Mexican justice system to continue the investigation of the case, identify the perpetrators, and punish them to the full extent of the law.

On June 22, 2004, Ortiz Franco was getting into his car after a medical appointment when an armed individual approached him and shot him multiple times, according to the IAPA records. His two young children, who were with him at the time, witnessed the murder but were unharmed. The crime took place in Tijuana, Baja California.

On this new anniversary, the IAPA recalls the circumstances of his murder and highlights the importance of his brave journalistic work as part of its campaign "Voices Claiming Justice."

In a statement sent to the IAPA, the family said: "Twenty years have passed with governments from different parties promising to fight against impunity. Our hope of obtaining convictions for the murder diminishes, and we continue to wonder if we will at least get the truth about what happened. We informed the outgoing government of our intention to reach a friendly settlement to repair the damage suffered by our family. Three years later, we have only received silence and indifference. We hope that the next federal government will have greater willingness to address our demand for justice."

A lawyer by profession, Ortiz Franco wrote in Zeta about politics, crime, corruption, and criminal groups operating in Baja California. He was considered an honest, supportive, and professional journalist with a long-standing commitment to defending press freedom.

Carlos Jornet, president of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, urged the Mexican authorities to make "every effort to meet the family's demands for access to justice and truth." Jornet, the editor of the Argentine newspaper La Voz del Interior, added that "there is no justification for this case to remain unsolved after two decades."

Two days before his murder, Ortiz Franco revealed in Zeta the identities of seventy-one members of the Arellano Félix cartel. His murder was likely carried out by cartel hitmen in direct retaliation for his journalistic work in the weekly newspaper.

Zeta had already been the target of other similarly serious attacks. In 1987, armed attackers shot at the newspaper's headquarters, and a year later Héctor Félix Miranda, the co-director, was murdered—a crime that remains unsolved. In 1997, Jesús Blancornelas, Zeta's co-founder, survived an assassination attempt that killed his driver and bodyguard, Luis Valero Elizalde.

A month before Ortiz Franco's murder, as part of an action mediated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the journalist represented the IAPA in meetings with the Baja California Attorney General's Office to review the file on Félix Miranda's murder.

Due to the lack of resolution in the case, in 2010, the IAPA presented Ortiz Franco's case before the IACHR. In 2021, the Alianza de Medios MX joined the IAPA as a representative in the case. The organizations, along with family members, have consistently denounced the authorities' omissions in the investigation of the murder and the lack of attention and information provided to the victims regarding the progress of the case.

They also condemn the fact that more than three years after agreeing to initiate a dialogue to reach a possible amicable settlement, the State has yet to respond, which the family and representatives perceive as a lack of interest in the case.

After the murder, the journalist's family was also intimidated. His widow, Gabriela Ramírez González, was threatened by organized crime, prompting the authorities to provide protective measures. For several years, the family had police escorts.

The IAPA campaign "Voices Claiming Justice" seeks to persist in the call for justice and to honor the memory of journalists murdered in Latin America over the past decades.

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.