Four journalists killed within six weeks and citizens say "ENOUGH!"

Mexico is one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists. Carlos Lauria, Americas Director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, stated that the country "is clearly going through a deep, full-blown freedom of expression crisis".

Speaking at an event before the Women’s G7 Forum, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, cited the killing of Mexican journalist and human rights advocate, Miroslava Breach, as an example of the increasingly difficult environment that women and civil society organisations face around the world. 

“[T]here are distressing signs in several countries of shrinking space for civil society, repression of public media, and increasing levels of femicide in some regions,” Mlambo-Ngcuka stated.

Expression

From March to April 2017, four journalists were killed in Mexico. On 2nd March, Cecilio Pineda was shot dead in Guerrero state as he lay resting in a hammock. The state’s attorney general blamed his murder on organised crime. On 19th March, Ricardo Monlui Cabrera was shot dead while leaving a restaurant with his wife and son in the state of Veracruz. Four days later, Miroslava Breach was gunned down in the city of Chihuahua as she was getting ready to drive her son to school. Chihuahua, Veracruz and Guerrero are current hot spots of drug cartel violence. Breach, in particular, was well-known for her reporting on political corruption, human rights abuses, including violations of indigenous peoples' rights, and violence linked to drug trafficking.

On 14th April, Maximino Rodríguez Palacios, a journalist who reported on police, crime and corruption for the blog Colectivo Pericú was also shot dead outside a shopping mall in the city of La Paz in the state of Baja California Sur.

Other journalists have been seriously injured. Armando Arrieta Granados, editor in chief of La Opinión, a daily paper from Poza Rica, Veracruz was repeatedly shot at and left for dead right outside his home in late March 2017. A day earlier, Julio Omar Gómez Sánchez's bodyguard was killed in an attack. Gómez Sánchez had a bodyguard as part of the Journalists' Protection Programme. After his home was set on fire twice, both in late 2016 and early 2017, Gómez Sánchez decided to retire, but the attacks against him have not stopped.

Given the violence against journalists, the newspaper, Norte de Ciudad Juárez, where assassinated journalist Miroslava Breach worked, announced it would cease publication as it could not guarantee the safety of its employees. Economic sustainability of the newspaper may also have been a factor leading to its closure.

Peaceful Assembly

After three journalists were assassinated in March 2017, a protest was held in Mexico City on 25th March. Civil society organisations, students, workers and independent citizens gathered in the streets to say "Enough!" and "No More Murdered Journalists”. Demonstrators marched from the Angel of Independence monument to the Attorney General's Office and called on the government to do more to protect journalists.

Also in March 2017, parents of the 43 disappeared students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College gathered to protest and mark 30 months since the case of the “Ayotzinapa 43" who were kidnapped and presumably killed. Demonstrators joined San Quintín labourers in Mexico City to demand justice for the missing students. According to the parents, the authorities' various unsupported claims that the students were killed by drug cartels are part of a deliberate effort to absolve the government of any responsibility.

In mid-March, a group of Cuban migrants detained in the southern Mexico city of Tapachula, in the state of Chiapas, accused law enforcement agents of physically assaulting them — in some cases of sewing their lips together — in retaliation for staging a hunger strike to demand their release. Several of the refugees claim they were beaten by state police and federal immigration agents at the Siglo XXI migrants’ detention center after they refused to return to their cells and began their hunger strike.

Additionally, fishermen in the Sea of Cortés demonstrated against an environmental organisation in the area. Protests in Golfo de Santa Clara, Sonora, and San Felipe, Baja California were triggered by a call for a shrimp boycott and a Mexican proposal to ban gill net fishing, both of which aim to protect a near-extinct porpoise species. Residents and fishermen boarded dozens of boats and tried to force two ships operated by the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to leave the area. The Sea Shepherd had been working in the region for two years as part of an agreement with the Mexican government to provide better monitoring of the environmental situation.