CIVICUS

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Last updated on 21.03.2019 at 15:09

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 Two journalists shot dead in broad daylight

Two journalists shot dead in broad daylight

On 20th January 2019, Rafael Murúa Manríquez, a radio station director in Baja California Sur, was found dead on the side of the road after being reported missing.

Expression

Two journalists killed in Mexico

On 20th January 2019, Rafael Murúa Manríquez, a radio station director in Baja California Sur, was found dead on the side of the road after being reported missing. Murúa had reported receiving repeated threats in recent years, and since 2017 was part of the protection program sanctioned by the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. In a statement, Karin Duetsch Karlekar, the director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at the CSO Pen America said: 

“Every case that goes unpunished is a signal to journalists that if they refuse to self-censor in the face of these threats, they risk death or other grievous attacks as a result of their work.” 

On 9th February 2019, another journalist was gunned down in the state of Tabasco while eating breakfast at a restaurant. Jesus Ramos Rodriguez hosted a news program on a prominent radio station for nearly 20 years. According to news reports, eyewitnesses say they saw a man get out of a car and shoot Rodriguez over eight times. Despite being rushed to hospital, Rodriguez later died of injuries sustained during the attack. 

Attacks against journalists continue 

On 10th December 2018, at least seven journalists received the same threatening message on a popular social media website. The journalists, who work at different media outlets and in different regions, told Article 19 that they believe the threatening messages could be related to their work covering corruption and theft by elected officials. 

On 20th December 2018, a human head and a threatening message were left outside of the office of a newspaper in Ciudad Victoria. Article 19 reported that the message was addressed to local journalistic guild but left at the same place where a car bomb exploded in 2012, injuring employees of the Expresso newspaper. It remains unclear who left the package or who it was intended for.

Martín Valtierra García, the editor and founder of Contrastes de Comundú, a news website popular in California Sur, was attacked outside his house by two individuals on 29th January 2019. Video shows the individuals violently attacking him with baseball bats, leaving him with a wound on his head and a broken arm. Valtierra had previously accused the Comondù municipal government of corruption which may have upset local officials, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Valtierra is in the process of being enrolled in the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.

On 29th January 2019, a group of 10 reporters were held at gunpoint by a police officer working for the Guerrero’s Attorney General office while attempting to cover a shooting involving police. According to Article 19, several journalists had arrived on the scene and saw police officers making an arrest after at least one person was killed. Soon after, about 25 officers approached the journalists and told them to leave the area. Video shows armed officers holding assault style weapons, and at least one them aiming it at the journalists. “When the officer pointed us, I was in front, I even saw that he had his finger on the trigger, I thought that at some point he could shoot us,” one reporter told Article 19.

On 5th February 2019, a member of a local official’s staff attempted to intimidate a reporter after she interviewed the official. Evangelina Rosales Gasca says a member of Deputy of the Puebla Legislature Uruviel González Vieyra’s entourage approached her after the interview and made a reference to where her children attend school. While initially caught off guard by his remarks, she soon realised that she was being threatened. Gasca and her husband, who is also a journalist, say that her previous reporting on Vieyra’s potential candidacy in an upcoming election is what likely prompted the incident.

Arbitrary detention of journalists

On 1st February 2019, a journalist with La Crónica de Hoy says he was attacked and temporarily detained by armed men in Hidalgo while attempting to cover a story about illegal oil production. Daniel Blancos said he was taking photographs when several unidentified individuals approached him and began questioning him. "Who are you taking pictures of,” they asked while threatening him at gunpoint. Despite informing them that he was journalist and offering his identification, the journalist was attacked. He was later beaten and questioned in the backseat of a car for a half hour before being released. His attackers are yet to be identified.

Peaceful Assembly

Tens of thousands of workers at several factories located near the country’s border with the U.S. are receiving a pay raise after weeks of mass strikes. Employees of maquiladora, or factories that build cars and electronic equipment that are sold exclusively to businesses in foreign countries, in the border city of Matamoros, began striking in January 2019 after President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador recently called for doubling the minimum wage in the country’s border zones. The union representing most of the workers and the businesses reached a deal to increase their pay by around 20 percent. Inspired by the success of the striking workers, employees at several non-union factories have also started picketing outside of their plants to demand better pay. Before the agreement was reached, as many as 40,000 maquiladora employees had participated in the strikes.

On 14th January 2019 teachers in the state of Michoacan began blocking railroad tracks as part of a protest to demand unpaid wages allegedly owed by the state government. According to media reports, teachers affiliated with Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE) and Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) unions blocked hundreds of cargo trains in several locations, causing widespread disruption to supply routes, as part of a campaign to force the government to respond to their demands. A similar protest with more than a thousand teachers also took place in the state of Oaxaca. Teachers say recent federal government educational reforms have disrupted the schedules and pay for many teachers. Despite requests by the state’s governor, Olga Sánchez, the Interior Secretary says she will not forcibly remove the protesting teachers from the railroads. “There will be no repression, [the federal government] will not resort to using public force,” she said. President Obrador has reportedly asked the Mexican National Human Rights Commission to recommend measures for ending the standoff.

Association in Mexico

The freedom of association is constitutionally recognised and regulated by the Federal Law for the Promotion of Activities Undertaken by Civil Society Organisations.

The freedom of association is constitutionally recognised and regulated by the Federal Law for the Promotion of Activities Undertaken by Civil Society Organisations. There are no legal restrictions on foreign funding; in fact, a 1994 tax treaty with the United States encourages cross-border donations. However, new anti-money laundering legislation has made procedures more burdensome and intrusive for CSOs, with a particularly negative impact on smaller and grassroots organisations. The context in some parts of the country, which is characterised by widespread and systematic human rights abuses, is hostile for human rights defenders, who frequently face attacks, stigmatisation, judicial harassment and threats by the government, corporations and armed individuals linked to organised crime. From 2012 to 2014, at least 32 human rights defenders were killed. Women’s rights activists and indigenous, environmental and land rights defenders are particularly at risk. The 2012 Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists that created a protection mechanism and guidelines for public institutions to work together to protect defenders at risk has not yet been effectively implemented and remains underfunded.

Peaceful Assembly in Mexico

The freedom of peaceful assembly is guaranteed by the constitution. Municipalities and states apply their own regulations and administrative procedures, often including notification requirements.

The freedom of peaceful assembly is guaranteed by the constitution. Municipalities and states apply their own regulations and administrative procedures, often including notification requirements. Local organisations have documented at least 10 legislative initiatives that aim to limit the right to peaceful assembly. As demonstrations in small local communities receive little media coverage, protests are typically taken to state capitals and Mexico City, where thousands of protest events take place every year. Some protests do become violent and are harshly repressed with reported cases of arbitrary detention, excessive use of force and even the torture of protestors. For example, in a 2012 protest in Mexico City, 99 arbitrary detentions and six cases of torture were documented. In some states like Puebla, legislation allows police to use firearms or deadly force to break up protests. Recently, during a teachers’ protest, six people were killed and more than 100 injured as a consequence of the excessive use of force by police to disperse the protests.

Expression in Mexico

Although the freedom of expression is constitutionally recognised, Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists, and Oaxaca, Guerrero, Veracruz, Zacatecas, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas are some of its most dangerous states.

Although the freedom of expression is constitutionally recognised, Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists, and Oaxaca, Guerrero, Veracruz, Zacatecas, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas are some of its most dangerous states. 2015 was one of the most violent years for media workers in Mexico, with 397 attacks on the press by state and non-state actors. In the first three months of 2016, 69 attacks against the press were documented, including the murders of six journalists during 2016. At the state and municipal levels, widespread impunity has resulted in equally widespread self-censorship; media coverage of violence, drug trafficking and corruption has therefore declined. A 2013 constitutional amendment made Internet access a civil right and no restrictions have been placed on content; nevertheless, online attacks against journalists are becoming more common.Mexico adopted access to information legislation in 2002, but actual access to public information remains problematic, particularly at the state and local levels. In order to improve the access to information situation, Congress recently passed the General Transparency and Public Information Access Law. While defamation was decriminalised at the federal level in 2007, 12 out of 32 states still have criminal defamation laws and use them to intimidate journalists.