Mexico: Summary of attacks

The following is an update on writers and journalists under attack in Mexico from January to April 2008.


Mexico continues to be one of English PEN’s main countries of concern in the Americas, being one of the most dangerous places in the world to work as a journalist. Print journalists are particularly at risk of violence: PEN’s records for the last six months of 2007 show a total of 25 attacks, ranging from killings and disappearances, to death threats and violence. Sadly, there have been almost as many attacks in the first four months of 2008, suggesting that the violence is escalating. 

Officials, particularly government officials and the police, are the major perpetrators of violence against journalists. However, an estimated three out of every ten attacks are linked to organised crime or so-called “parallel powers”, particularly drug cartels in the north of the country. Consequently, journalists reporting on organised crime, drug trafficking and corruption are especially at risk.

Impunity reigns. Although the Mexican Federal government created the Special Prosecutor’s Office to for Crimes against Journalists (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas, FEADP) in early 2006, to date there have been no successful prosecutions. This is due in part to jurisdictional limitations: murder and assault are state rather than federal crimes, and the federal government has no automatic right to intervene. A new ‘Impunity Index’ launched by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranks Mexico 10th out of the world’s 13 worst offenders.


Summary of attacks (January – April 2008):


According to our information, there have been a total of 21 attacks against print journalists in Mexico in the first four months of 2008: 3 killed, 1 disappeared, 4 threatened with death, 1 bomb threat against the staff of a newspaper, 1 individual journalist threatened, 2 briefly detained, 6 attacked physically and 3 harassed.

Killed:  On 5 February 2008 Francisco Ortiz Monroy, correspondent for the daily newspaper El Diario de México, was shot dead whilst leaving the municipal offices in Camargo in Tamaulipas state, near the US border. The motive for his murder is unknown. Two days later, on 7 February, father and son Bonifacio Cruz Santiago and Alfonso Cruz Cruz, director and editor of the weekly El Real, were shot dead outside the town hall in Chimalhuacan, Mexico state, in a suspected case of mistaken identity. In both cases official investigations have been opened; to date the outcome remains unknown. In addition, on 8 April 2008 two female journalists who were working for an indigenous community radio station known for its reporting on human rights violations in Oaxaca were murdered; the director of another community radio station in the area has also since come under threat.

Disappeared: Mauricio Estrada Zamora, reporter for the Michoacán newspapers La Opinión de Apatzingán and La Opinión de Michoacán, has reportedly been missing since 12 February 2008. His abandoned car was found the next day. Estrada Zamora’s employers believe that his disappearance may be linked to a problem he had in January with a Federal Investigations Agency (Agencia Federal de Investigación, AFI) agent in the area. There has been no further news as to his whereabouts. The incident follows the December 2007 murder of another La Opinión de Michoacán journalist, Gerardo Israel García Pimentel.


Threatened with death: Newspaper journalists José Uriel Rosas Martínez (Noticias and San Andres Tuxtla, Veracruz), Carlos Huerta Muñoz (Norte de Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua), Cecilia Vargas Simón (La Verdad de Suoroeste, Tabasco), Auricela Castro García (El Mundo de Orizaba, Veracruz) all received death threats related to their reporting between January and March 2008. Rosas Martínez was threatened by a public official in person, while the others were menaced by phone. Huerta Muñoz’s caller identified himself as a member of an organisation allegedly linked to Mexican drug cartels. As a result, the journalist reportedly fled the country with his family, despite being offered police protection, and his newspaper said that it would no longer report on organized crime.

In Mexico such threats are not idle: a recent study suggests that 80% of journalists who suffered attacks had received threats beforehand (Centro de Periodismo y Ética Pública CEPET)

Positive News:

Despite the Mexican authorities’ abysmal track record on bringing to justice the perpetrators of attacks against journalists, the first few months of 2008 saw some small positive developments in this regard. In March, a member of the Arellano Félix drug cartel was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder of editor Jesús J. Blancornelas, who was shot dead in 1997 after reporting on the cartel in the Tijuana-based investigative magazine Zeta. In April, it was reported that four men, including a former police chief, had each been sentenced to 11 years in prison for their part in the November 2004 murder of Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández, photographer for the newspaper El Debate.

Arrest warrants against five public employees allegedly involved in the 2005 illegal abduction and detention of author, journalist and social activist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro were issued by the Attorney General’s Office in April 2008, according to the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Journalists. The names of the suspects were reportedly not made public to prevent them from fleeing. This comes despite the Supreme Court of Justice’s November 2007 ruling that the incident in question had not constituted a serious violation of Cacho’s constitutional rights. On 3 May Press Freedom Day, Cacho was awarded the 2008 UNESCO/ Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

Please send appeals:

• Welcoming the recent steps taken by the authorities to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against journalists, such as the arrest of a drug cartel member on suspicion of involvement in the 1997 murder of editor Jesús J. Blancornelas and the issue of arrest warrants against public employees allegedly involved in the 2005 abduction and detention of journalist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro;
• Nonetheless, expressing grave concern about the continuing impunity in the vast majority of crimes against print journalists and the escalation of such attacks in Mexico in 2008;
• Requesting the government to instruct federal, state and municipal authorities to take concrete steps to protect the life and rights of print journalists in Mexico, end impunity and bring to justice those who murder, attack, threaten or intimidate journalists; in particular, to strengthen the Special Prosecutors Office for Crimes against Journalists (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas, FEADP) and grant it the required independence to investigate such crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice, and to make the murder and assault of journalists federal rather than state crimes.

Appeals to:

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (President)
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850, DISTRITO FEDERAL, México
Salutation: Señor Presidente/ Dear Mr President

It may be more effective however to send appeals to the diplomatic representative for Mexico:

HE Señor Juan Bremer de Martino CVO
St George Street
Salutation: Your Excellency

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