CSOs documented over 130 attacks against the press in the context of elections

Expression

Freedom of expression violations in the context of elections 

International CSO, Article 19 tracked over 130 attacks against journalists during its #RompeElMiedo (Break the Fear) campaign around the national election. Since the organisation started monitoring the situation on 4th April 2018, journalists and members of the #RompeElMiedo campaign continue to be harassed and threatened by politicians and members of their staff. For example, at least two journalists were threatened at a 3rd July media event sponsored by the Movement of National Regeneration (MORENA). One of the journalists, who asked to remain unidentified, said she was threatened by people associated with MORENA because she was recording the event. She shared video evidence with Article 19 during which someone tells her, “something can happen to you”.

At the municipal level, it was reported that on 3rd June 2018, a reporter in Monclova received two threatening phone calls just days after conducting a contentious interview with a municipal presidential candidate. In a video, Gerardo Rico, a TV reporter from XHMAP TV, says that he received two calls telling him not to return to the place where he had conducted the interview. "You step on the colony again and [you] disappear,” said part of the message.

On 26th June 2018, a reporter and host of a radio news program reportedly received a threatening phone call from a local politician running for re-election. The journalist Mayra Cisneros Ortiz says Florencio Siller Linaje, the municipal president of Frontera, Coahuila, called her cell phone to complain about her reporting. Mayra Cisneros told Article 19, "He was so upset, he warned me he would take care of me, and if I still did not publicly support him through the medium, he would not rest until he finished with me”. After the call, Ortiz recorded a video saying that if anything were to happen to her or her family that Siller Linaje would be to blame. She was also subsequently suspended by the radio station over fears that the local politician will use his position to reduce the amount of advertising money the radio station receives.

Killing of journalists

On 29th May 2018, the body of a journalist who was reportedly beaten to death was found in Ciudad Victoria in the state of Tamaulipas. HĂ©ctor GonzĂĄlez Antonio, a correspondent for the Excelsior newspaper and a television broadcaster who had reported on crime and drug cartels, had been last seen the night before leaving his girlfriend’s house. While authorities are still investigating the circumstances surrounding his death, the Attorney General's Office of Tamaulipas said, “given the nature of the journalistic work we do not rule out that (the murder) could be derived from it”. Antonio’s killing, the 6th of a journalist this year, comes just a few days after the killing of Alicia DĂ­az GonzĂĄlez, financial reporter for El Financiero who was found dead in her home in Monterrey. Alicia DĂ­az GonzĂĄlez had also been beaten to death. Althought Deputy Prosecutor Luis Enrique Orozco Suarez stated that "there are no precise indications linking the murder to her journalistic work, however, this line of investigation has not been ruled out yet".

Another reporter was killed at a bar on 29th June 2018. Authorities say JosĂ© Guadalupe Chan Dzib, a crime reporter for Playa News AquĂ­ y Ahora and El TĂĄbano, had received threatening calls that he felt were related to his reporting activities.The day after his killing, Chan’s colleagues staged a demonstration outside of a local government office building demanding the authorities find the persons responsible.

Jan-Albert Hootsen, Mexico’s Committee to Protect Journalists representative, stated:

“Every murder of a journalist, photographer, blogger, social media commentator or media worker confirms that our Mexican colleagues continue to face constant violence and near complete impunity in attacks against the press.” 

Attacks against journalists persist

On 23rd May 2018, firefighters reportedly attacked a reporter covering a political rally in Mexico City after a former firefighter union boss and current political candidate encouraged people to attack him. Alfredo Páez, a reporter for El Big Data, says Ismael Figueroa incited the crowd of mostly firefighters to harass and attack him because of his past reporting on negligence and mismanagement at fire stations. Páez told Article 19, “He recognised me and through a megaphone he harangued his colleagues to assault me. During the attack I was pushed, beaten and insulted”.

On 26th May 2018, a popular radio host who deals with many local and community issues was attacked and threatened by two unidentified men. JosĂ© Alfredo Herrera told Article 19 that he was riding his bike in Huajuapan de LeĂłn when two men in a red car began attacking him. “The car started trying to pull me off the bike,” he explained. After the attackers were momentarily distracted, Herrera was able to flee the scene. Herrera’s radio program, which often invites residents to air their grievances about local politicians and crime, may have contributed to the attack.

On 3rd June 2018, a blanket with a threatening message possibly aimed at a local journalist was hung from a public place in Playas de Rosarito. These types of messages are commonly used by drug cartels and other violent criminals to intimidate and harass politicians, police and members of the media. While it is it is unclear for whom the threatening message was intended, the reporter Carmen Olsen says he could be the target because of his journalistic activities in the area. “I feel unprotected, I wanted to be brave but I walk without protection,” he told Article 19.

On 6th June 2018, a reporter from Canal 44 and Quadratín Jalisco was attacked by police in Tlaquepaque while covering a traffic accident. Henry Saldaña says he identified himself as a member of the press to the police but was still pushed by one officer and another reportedly seized the tablet he was using to record the scene. Saldaña then says other officers grabbed him and began beating him. After the police noticed the attack being recorded by others, the police officers let Saldaña go but not before threatening him again.

On 23rd June 2018, a journalist was detained while attempting to cover a story in Ocampo. BertĂ­n GonzĂĄlez, a reporter with Noventa Grados was recording an incident in MichoacĂĄn when the police approached him and took Gonzalez’s phone. He was then forced into a kneeling position while being transported to the police station in a cramped vehicle. His phone, which contained sensitive work materials, was not returned. He was released a few hours later. 

On 25th June 2018, Luis Gordillo, director of La Bandera Noticias, survived an attempt attack while walking home in Uriangato. According to Article 19, the assailants’ gun malfunctioned but not before shooting Gordillo three times. He fears that his life is still in jeopardy, telling Article 19, “I am worried since these people told me that they were going to return to finish me off”.

On 27th June 2018, a reporter’s camera and other electronic equipment were stolen from his car while he and his family were shopping in CancĂșn. According to Article 19, Alberto Aguilar, an independent journalist who reported on high-profile candidates running in the presidential election, returned to his car to find a back window broken and a backpack containing his camera, 2,000 photos, flash drives and other work-related equipment stolen.

Due to the hostile environment for journalists in Mexico, David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom expression, told the UN Human Rights Council that Mexico faces “a major security crisis” that is largely fuelled by the breakdown in the rule of law. This violence has been acutely felt by journalists, who continue to be targeted by criminals and state actors looking to silence their work. Kaye called for the strengthening of “mechanisms to prevent attacks on journalists including publication of detailed statistics concerning crimes and criminal accountability measures taken, extensive training of journalists in situations of risks, and adoption of contingency plans across high-risk states”. He also recommended the country bolster its federal mechanism for protecting journalists and human rights defenders.

Positive court ruling

The cancelling of a journalist’s contract was found to be illegal, according to a federal court. On 21st June 2018, the three magistrates of the Seventh Collegiate Court in Civil Matters ruled that the dismissal of Carmen Aristegui from the MVS radio group in 2015 was “illegal and improper”. Aristegui, who has been engaged in a lengthy legal battle to restore her name and ability to work, described the cancelled contract as a form of “censorship”, preventing her from doing her investigative work into corruption at the highest levels of the federal government. She still faces other legal problems because of a related but different case involving the owner of the MVS group who sued her for defamation.

Peaceful Assembly

On 21st May 2018, around 200 people blocked a major truck crossing on the U.S. border at Nuevo Laredo to express their frustration with the government’s inadequate response to the continued disappearance of residents in the area. Residents have filed over 40 complaints with the state, but feel the state is not doing enough to address the widespread problem. Protesters carried signs saying, “We demand justice for our disappeared”. 

Hoping to put pressure on the presidential candidates to roll back educational reforms introduced in 2013, thousands of teachers from across the country and their supporters took to the streets of Mexico City on 4th June 2018. Led by members of Coordinadora Nacional de los Trabajadores de la EducaciĂłn (CNTE), a teacher’s union, the protesters blocked major roads in the capital and demonstrated outside of the Secretariat of the Interior’s office. The teachers say the 2013 reforms were an attack on their labor rights, with the introduction of private charter schools, more standardised testing and linking those test results to their salaries. In June 2016, protests against the reforms turned deadly when police used excessive force to disperse the protest as reported by the Monitor. 

On 15th June 2018, truck-drivers near Peñasquito, who had been protesting against a goldmine owner’s hiring practices, agreed to end their blockade to the mine’s entrance and negotiate their demands with the company. Drivers had been protesting for two weeks because they say the Canadian company did not keep its promise to hire local workers. The mine is one of the largest in the country and its operations had not been affected by the temporary blockade.

On 22nd June 2018, as many as a thousand people protested outside of the U.S. embassy in Mexico City to express their anger and frustration with U.S. immigration policies, including ones that separate families seeking political asylum. Many held signs criticising the U.S. President’s policy of separating migrant families while others chanted “los migrantes no son criminales” and “familias unidas, jamĂĄs divididas”. 

Association

On 15th June 2018, two human rights defenders were arbitrarily detained in Pachuca, Hidalgo after talking about another activist that had been detained by authorities. After reporting on the arrest of their colleague Gabriela Soto on their radio program, Elsa Ángeles Vera and Leyla ChĂĄvez were detained by police when they went to the Secretariat of Public Security office to ask about Soto’s status. They said police would not permit them to leave the office because they supposedly provided false names and job titles to the police. The activists were released after two days. It was also reported that police used excessive force and tear gas to break up a group of supporters who had come to protest their detention outside of the government building where they were being held. 

On 17th June 2018, the bodies of three prominent LGBTI rights activists were found by authorities in Taxco. Authorities say RubĂ©n Estrada, Roberto Vega and Carlos Uriel LĂłpez were kidnapped and shot by four men. The prosecution office stated they are investigating several motives for the murders, but it seems the activists were victims of extortion. Estrada was known for organising Taxco’s annual Pride march.

An activist and prominent human rights defender says she received multiple death threats on social media because of her work on behalf of murdered and missing women and girls. Violent messages were posted to Frida Villalvazo’s Facebook page by an unknown person. The messages appear to be a response to her work investigating the growing number of attacks against women in the country. She recently published a book on the subject of femicide and the threats seems to suggest a connection.