Freedom of Expression

Press Release R80/16

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns the Murder of a Sixth Journalist in Mexico in 2016


June 21, 2016


Washington, D.C. – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the June 19 murder of journalist Elidio Ramos Zárate in the town of Juchitán, Oaxaca, Mexico, and urges Mexican authorities to act promptly and appropriately to investigate the crime and to identify and punish the perpetrators.


According to the information available, the reporter was shot at point-blank range in the head by unknown persons while covering a teachers’ protest in southern Oaxaca. He died on the scene. That same weekend, another 6 people were killed on the Mexico-Oaxaca Highway, near Asunción Nochixtlán, in federal, state, and municipal police confrontations with members of the National Coordinating Body of Education Workers [Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación] (CNTE).


Ramos Zárate was reporting for the police section of the newspaper El sur del Istmo, and had reportedly received threats indicating that he should not write about violent acts. At the time of his murder, he was covering the unrest and the roadblocks set up by teachers from Juchitán.


Ramos Zárate was the sixth journalist to be murdered in Mexico this year: Marcos Hernández Bautista was killed on January 21 in the town of San Andrés Huaxpaltepec, in the State of Oaxaca; on February 9, Anabel Flores Salazar was found dead in the State of Puebla; the body of journalist Moisés Dagdug Lutzow was found on February 20 in the State of Tabasco; Francisco Pacheco Beltrán was murdered on April 25 in Taxco, Guerrero, and journalist Manuel Torres González died on May 14 in the town of Poza Rica, Veracruz, from a gunshot wound to the head.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses special concern over the repetition of these types of violent acts against journalists and media workers in Mexico. In 2014, eight journalists were killed in Mexico in connection with the exercise of their freedom of expression, and six such cases were reported in 2015. The State of Oaxaca has been one of the most violent in the country for journalists in recent years. The Mexican State reported that the Office of the Public Prosecutor for the State [Fiscalía General del Estado] of Oaxaca had opened an investigation into these incidents.


The Report on Public Demonstrations as an Exercise of Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly states that, "Regarding journalists and cameramen doing their job in a public demonstration, the Rapporteurship [maintains] that they should not be bothered, detained, relocated, or made to suffer any other restriction of their rights due to their being engaged in the practice of their profession. Moreover, their work implements should not be confiscated. To the contrary, any action intended to obstruct their work should be prevented, as long as they do not place the rights of others at risk."


The Office of the Special Rapporteur finds it necessary in this case to urgently assess whether the mechanisms to transfer jurisdiction should be activated so that these cases can be investigated and prosecuted immediately by federal authorities. This Office also considers it essential to strengthen the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, and to enhance the interagency coordination mechanisms between federal authorities and the various levels of government to ensure the proper adoption and implementation of protection measures.


Principle 9 of the IACHR’s Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression states that, "The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."


When such crimes go unpunished, it encourages the repetition of similar violent acts and can result in the silencing and self-censorship of journalists.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.