Freedom of Expression

Press release 175/22

SRFOE condemns the murder of journalist Mike Cabrera in Ecuador and calls on the State to take measures for the prevention and protection of the press

August 3, 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 Mike Cabrera in the city of Portoviejo, Manabi province, and urges the State to investigate the facts fully, effectively and impartially, taking into consideration the journalistic work as a possible motive for the crime, and to punish those responsible.

According to available information, Mike Cabrera was shot by a group of unknown individuals in the early morning of July 24, 2022, when he was talking with other people in one of the main avenues of Portoviejo. Although he was later taken to the hospital of the Instituto Ecuatoriano de Seguridad Social, he did not survive the attack. Mike Cabrera had worked as a presenter in a news program of the Televisión Manabita channel and was currently covering local issues through Nexo Digital, his news page on social networks.

In recent weeks, the Rapporteur’s Office has received several reports warning about situations of violence against journalists in Ecuador. Recently, the Office learned of the death threat received by journalist Paúl Zamora, of the organization Fundamedios, which could be related to his investigative work on sensitive issues linked to political actors. According to available information, a complaint for intimidation has been filed with the corresponding Prosecutor's Office. Fundamedios documented at least 164 aggressions and attacks against journalists in Ecuador in June 2022.

The Special Rapporteur’s Office recalls that the murder of communicators is the most extreme form of censorship. According to Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, "the murder, kidnapping, intimidation, threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of the media, violates the fundamental rights of individuals and severely restricts freedom of expression". As the SRFOE has pointed out on previous occasions, this type of acts produces a marked effect of self-censorship, inhibiting journalists from carrying out their work; and reinforces the tendency to carry out journalism that avoids reporting on sensitive issues such as security, corruption or drug trafficking.

This Office urges the highest state authorities to provide a forceful institutional response, rejecting violence against the press and publicly recognizing the value of journalism in democratic societies. In accordance with its duty to guarantee the right to freedom of expression, the State must make its best efforts to investigate and punish the perpetrators and masterminds of crimes against freedom of expression, promoting an effective investigation and full reparation.

In this sense, although there are no records of previous threats against Mike Cabrera, the line of investigation for retaliation to the journalistic exercise should not be discarded. In turn, the State should consider the importance of witnesses in the chain of evidence and consider the possible threats they may receive, providing them with protection measures.

Finally, the Rapporteur’s Office takes up the observations made in the 2019 Special Report on the Situation of Freedom of Expression in Ecuador regarding the lack of measures or protocols to guarantee the safety of journalists and media workers, and reiterates the recommendations of that report regarding the prevention and protection of journalists. In particular, the Special Rapporteur’s Office insists on the importance of the State adopting all necessary measures to prevent further crimes against journalists; and establishing a policy for the protection of journalists, ensuring that its content complies with international human rights standards.

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.