Mr Octavio Alberto Orellana Wiarco
Special Prosecutor for Crimes Committed Against Journalists
General Prosecutor for the Republic, Mexico City
Dear Mr Prosecutor,
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) meeting in Washington on 18 July 2007, at the initiative of nine human rights and press freedom organisations - including Reporters Without Borders - ended in a strong commitment being given by attending representatives of the Mexican federal government:
strengthening the rights of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Committed against Journalists (Fiscalia Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos contra periodista - FEADP), which you have headed since February this year;
federal level handling of these types of cases;
regular reports to the IACHR on progress in ongoing investigations;
an association of organisations specialised in follow-up of investigations;
Other commitments were made in relation to community and electronic media.
There has certainly been progress towards freedom of expression as a result of recent developments in federal legislation aimed at decriminalising press offences. President Felipe Calderon’s promise made in October to “federalise” the handling of attacks against the media is a partial response to the commitments made at the IACHR meeting.
These efforts however cannot allow us to forget the scandal of impunity surrounding the murders of 32 journalists and the disappearance of seven others since 2000. Mexico ranked as the second most dangerous country in the world for the press after Iraq in 2006, a year in which nine journalists were killed.
The investigation into the murder of Brad Will, a young cameraman on the alternative news agency Indymedia, gunned down on 27 October 2007 during major political and social unrest in Oaxaca, revealed dysfunction at various levels of government. The journalist’s family told Reporters Without Borders that the federal justice system had simply endorsed the conclusions of the local investigation in Oaxaca, that he had been killed at point blank range by militants of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), although the hypothesis is not seriously backed up by any evidence or any witness. A number of accounts rather point the finger at police and local officials.
This case demonstrates the need for investigations to be taken over at the federal level, far from political pressure from certain governors and their aides. To this effect, the “federalisation” of criminal investigation of attacks on the press should start as quickly as possible.
Other cases of murders and disappearances illustrate the most basic difficulty police and the courts have in striking at the heart of criminality: At least half of the journalists killed were murdered for looking a little too closely at the scourges of drug-trafficking, smuggling and corruption.
These cases include: Alfredo Jiménez Mota, of the daily El Imparcial in Hermosillo, who went missing on 2 April 2005; Raúl Gibb Guerrero, editor of the daily La Opinión, killed on 8 April 2005 in Veracruz state, a case in which the main suspect arrested, Martín Rojas, alleged leader of a petrol-smuggling gang, has never gone on trial; Enrique Perea Quintanilla, founder of investigative monthly Dos Caras, Una Verdad, found tortured and murdered in Chihuahua state on 9 August 2006, a state whose government last September rejected a recommendation from the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) after three journalists were assaulted.
The year 2007 brought a fresh supply of tragedy to the ranks of the press. To the murders of Amado Ramírez, of Televisa, in Acapulco on 6 April this year and of Saúl Martínez Ortega, of the magazine Interdiario and the daily Cambio de Sonora, on 23 April, must be added three disappearances in January and May, Not one of these cases has been solved or brought to trial.
On the eve of the Day of the Dead, Reporters Without Borders joins with Mexicans to pay tribute to their journalists. In line with promises made before the IACHR, the organisation looks to you for a precise account of the progress of the on-going investigations and strong measures to put an end to impunity.
I trust you will give this request your careful attention.