Freedom of Expression

Press release R159/23

Mexico: RELE condemns attacks on the life and integrity of journalists in Nayarit and Guerrero, and calls on the authorities to investigate the facts quickly

July 20, 2023

Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalist Luis Martín Sánchez Íñiguez and the unlawful deprivation of liberty of journalists Jonathan Lora Ramírez and Osiris Maldonado De La Paz, in the state of Nayarit, and the murder of journalist Nelson Matus,  in the state of Guerrero. The RELE strongly calls on the authorities to investigate the events quickly, seriously, impartially and effectively, and to prosecute and punish those responsible.

According to  the information available, on Saturday, July 8, journalist Luis Martín Sánchez Íñiguez was found dead in the town of El Ahuacate, municipality of Tepic, state of Nayarit, after being kidnapped by unknown individuals and being disappeared for three days. The Attorney General's Office of Nayarit confirmed the journalist's murder, and indicated that his body showed signs of violence and on it two cards with a handwritten legend. According to public information, at the time of the kidnapping at his home, the perpetrators would have taken the reporter's work tools, such as his computer, cell phone and a hard drive. Sánchez Íñiguez worked as a correspondent for the newspaper La Jornada and a contributor to the local digital portal Crítica Digital Noticias (CDN).

Journalists Jonathan Lora Ramírez and Osiris Maldonado De La Paz were also reported to have been unlawfully deprived of their liberty on 7 and 3 July respectively, also in Tepic. Lora Ramírez and Maldonado De la Paz were reportedly released on July 9. According to the authorities, these events were related to the kidnapping and murder of Sánchez Íñiguez.

This Office emphasizes that, according to the Attorney General's Office of Nayarit, several lines of investigation have been opened into these events, the main one being related to the journalistic work of the victims. According to the first investigations, it is known that the three reporters at some point collaborated in joint projects related to their occupation, as well as in matters of a personal nature. It also appreciates the president's message, in which he regretted the events and sent a message of solidarity to the journalist's family, friends and colleagues.

Additionally, on July 15, journalist Nelson Matus was murdered in Acapulco, Guerrero state. The reporter was attacked with gunfire by armed men in a parking lot in the Emiliano Zapata neighborhood. Nelson Matus was director of the local media outlet Lo Real de Guerrero, where he covered violence and citizen insecurity. The Attorney General's Office  of the State of Guerrero reported that  an investigation folder was opened for the crime of qualified homicide with a firearm, and reiterated its commitment to exhaust the lines of investigation that arise.

Based on the aforementioned events, the number of journalists killed in Mexico so far in 2023 rises to six, according to reports received by RELE. Previously,  the murder of journalists Abisaí Pérez Romero, José Ramiro Araujo Ochoa, Gerardo Torres Rentería and Marco Aurelio Ramírez was recorded.

The Office of the Rapporteur observes that these events highlight the situation of serious risk in which journalists and communicators find themselves in different areas of Mexico, in which it is extremely difficult for them to carry out investigations and publications on topics such as organized crime, drug trafficking, corruption, public security, and similar matters. In this context, some journalists may resort to self-censorship as a way to protect themselves against attacks and threats, which significantly impacts the circulation of information of public interest in this region. As  the Inter-American Court has pointed out, "the exercise of journalism can only be carried out freely when the persons who carry it out are not victims of threats or physical, mental or moral aggression or other acts of harassment."

With regard to the State's obligation to protect journalists at risk, the Office has followed up on the State's proposals to restructure protection policy at the federal level, based on the strengthening of the legal framework. According  to the information provided by the State, the General Law initiative promoted in 2022 aims to improve the implementation of security for journalists and human rights defenders, as well as strengthen protection actions, seeking to generate obligation in the matter for the authorities of the three levels of government and under the constitutional mandate that recognizes the right to defend human rights and protect those who exercise freedom of expression. Likewise, an increase of 62% of the budget for operating expenses in 2022 was reported, compared to the previous year.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur reiterates its condemnation of all forms of violence against journalists and calls on the authorities to conduct a thorough and prompt investigation, and to identify, prosecute, and punish those responsible. It also calls on the Mexican State to adopt protection measures for journalists at risk, as well as to deploy its maximum efforts to improve policies for the protection of journalists throughout the territory. This includes, among other aspects, collaboration and coordination between the different levels of government. Although the Rapporteurship welcomes the institutional efforts to strengthen the national protection system, it notes that these have not yet translated into concrete results and improvements, and therefore calls on the authorities to redouble their actions in this direction.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) with the aim of encouraging the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given its fundamental role in consolidating and developing the democratic system.