Freedom of Expression

Press Release R87/09







Washington, December 29, 2009- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression expresses profound concern at the murder of journalist José Alberto Velázquez López, owner of daily newspaper Expresiones de Tulum, in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the Mexican authorities to investigate this crime quickly and efficiently and to properly punish those responsible.


According to the information received by the Office of the Special Rapporteur, on Tuesday, December 22, Velazquez was driving his car in the city of Cancun when he was struck by several shots fired by individuals riding a motorcycle. The information indicates that the journalist was taken to a nearby hospital where he died several hours later. Representatives of the newspaper indicated that it had received several death threats over the last few weeks in response to the publication of reporting on alleged corruption among local authorities. In addition, the newspapers printing facilities had been attacked with a firebomb in November.


During 2009, at least 10 journalists were murdered in Mexico for reasons related to their work as journalists. The Office of the Special Rapporteur calls urgently on the Mexican authorities to investigate Velázquez murder and to capture and adequately punish those responsible.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur repeats its call for the Mexican State to expedite existing investigations on crimes against media workers and to take any necessary measures to protect the press as soon as possible. Such measures might include the strengthening of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists (Fiscala Especial Para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos Contra Periodistas), the classifying of crimes against journalists as federal crimes, and the implementation of permanent mechanisms of special protection to guarantee the life and physical integrity of at-risk media workers.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds that Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states that "the murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats against social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media, violates the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restricts 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.