Mexico: failure of protection mechanisms exposed by murder of ninth print journalist

The murder of Cándido Ríos Vazquez in Hueyapan de Ocampo, Veracruz state, on 22 August is yet another tragic example of the Mexican authorities’ failure to protect its journalists. The murder of Ríos marks the ninth murder of a print journalist this year.

Cándido Ríos Vazquez was shot dead alongside two others (one of them a former police chief) by an unknown assailant; he died on his way to hospital.

According to media reports, he had been receiving threats since 2012. For the last ten years, Ríos Vazquez had been covering the police beat for Diario de Acayucan newspaper, and was known to have had conflicts with former officials of Hueyapan. Ríos Vazquez was under the protection of the Veracruz State Commission for the Protection of Journalists (Comisión Estatal para la Atención y Protección de Periodistas – CEAPP), a body created by the Veracruz state government in 2012 but in principle independent.

Jennifer Clement, PEN International President, said:

Ríos Vazquez’ murder is made all the more alarming with the knowledge that he was under the protection of the state’s protection mechanism. The authorities must act now to investigate this killing and any links to Ríos Vazquez’ journalism, and to find a way to make these protection programmes work.

Ríos Vazquez’ murder comes less than a month after the murder of journalist Luciano Rivera Salgado. Rivera Salgado, who was a news anchor for CNR Noticias Canal 54, and an editor and contributor to El Dictamen, was reportedly killed in a bar fight in Playas de Rosarito, Baja California state on 31 July 2017. The case has still not been resolved, while journalists and NGOs alike have sought assurances that his work as a journalist is investigated as a possible motive.

According to ARTICLE 19, in the first quarter of 2017, an average of 1.5 attacks against the press were carried out in Mexico each day. Veracruz state is one of the most dangerous; at least 16 writers and print journalists have been killed in Veracruz state since 2004, 13 since 2010, among them Pedro Tamayo Rosas who was also under the protection of CEAPP. On 21 August, writer and journalist Héctor de Mauleón, stated in his column for El Universal: ‘All kinds of attacks against communicators are registered in the state’. Mauleón has also received constant and serious threats for his investigative journalism, the most recent of which occurred on 16 August.

At least nine writers and print journalists have been killed in Mexico since March 2017, bringing the total number of those killed to 89 since 2004. The Mexican authorities must act.

PEN calls on the Mexican authorities to carry out swift and impartial investigations into the killings of journalists Cándido Ríos Vazquez and Luciano Rivera Salgado, ensuring that any possible link to their journalism is explored fully, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. PEN also calls on the authorities to do more to protect its journalists and bring an end to the cycle of impunity for such crimes.

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