Freedom of Expression

Press release R180/22

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression condemns the murder of journalist Ernesto Méndez in Mexico and observes that 2022 marks the highest number of crimes against the press in the country in the last 24 years

August 16, 2022

Washington, D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalist Ernesto Méndez Pérez, in the city of San Luis de la Paz, state of Guanajuato. Thus, 2022 becomes the deadliest year for the press in Mexico, with thirteen journalists murdered for reasons that could be linked to their informative work.  This Office urges the State to carry out a prompt, effective and impartial investigation and to punish those responsible; and reiterates its calls for the authorities to adopt urgent measures for the prevention and protection of journalists, and to address the structural problem of impunity that prevails around these crimes.

According to available information, Ernesto Méndez was the victim of an armed attack by a group of unidentified individuals on August 2, when he was in the company of family and friends in a bar in the city. According to the Guanajuato State Prosecutor's Office, at least four people died in the attack and at least one was seriously injured. Ernesto Méndez was the owner and general manager of the local newspaper Tu Voz. During his 18-year career in journalism he was also a contributor to Periódico Correo and Zona Franca. According to reports received by the Rapporteur’s Office, Ernesto Méndez had previously been the target of threats.

The governor of the state of Guanajuato condemned the events and instructed to follow up on the case for its clarification and the pursuit of justice. Likewise, the secretary of government of Guanajuato assured that "the corresponding protection measures will be taken" in coordination with the local and federal mechanisms for the protection of journalists. According to state authorities, there are at least four lines of investigation in this case, one of which involves journalism. Likewise, the Prosecutor's Office of Guanajuato informed that a person has been arrested and charged for the presumed material authorship of the journalist's crime.

Thus, 2022 records the highest number of homicides against the press in the last 24 years, according to the reports documented by the Special Rapporteur’s Office since its first annual report, published in 1998. In addition to the case of Ernesto Méndez, so far this year the SRFOE has reported the murder of José Luis Gamboa Arenas, Alfonso Margarito Martínez Esquivel, Lourdes Maldonado López, Roberto Toledo, Heber López Vásquez, Jorge Luis Camero Zazueta, Juan Carlos Muñiz, Armando Linares, Luis Enrique Ramírez, Yesenia Mollinedo, Sheila Johana García and Antonio de la Cruz and his daughter. This Office insists in its emphatic call that murders against journalists cannot be tolerated in a democratic society, and that it is fundamental that the authorities unequivocally repudiate this type of attacks and refrain from making statements that could increase the vulnerability and risk inherent to the profession. 

On the other hand, this Office expresses its deep concern regarding the reports received on the murder of four workers of the radio station Switch 105.9 FM, last August 11 during a violent day in Ciudad Juárez; and on the disappearance of a communicator in the city of San Luis Río Colorado, state of Sonora, whose whereabouts are unknown since August 9. The Rapporteur’s Office calls on the State to promptly clarify the facts; and encourages both the authorities and civil society to provide information to this Office for monitoring and documentation purposes.

In light of the previous considerations, the Special Rapporteur’s Office urges the Mexican State to investigate the facts, punish the perpetrators and ensure adequate reparations to the victims. As has been stated on previous occasions, the failure to punish the material and intellectual authors of crimes against freedom of expression sends a message of permissiveness and tolerance of violence against the press and contributes to self-censorship. The Rapporteur’s Office urges the Mexican State to heed the recent calls made by this Office to comply with its duties to promote, protect, respect and guarantee the work of journalists.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.