Attacks on journalists increasingly connected to government corruption and criminal investigations

Association

On 24th October 2018, it was reported that Julián Carrillo Martínez, indigenous leader and land activist was attacked and fatally shot in Coloradas de la Virgen. Carrillo carried out activities in defense of the territories of the indigenous community. He received several death threats prior to the attack. The attack occurred while he was hiding in the Tarahumara mountains, after being followed the day before by alleged members of an organised crime group. 

Peaceful Assembly

In response to recent attacks on students, thousands of students marched in Mexico City to demand greater security and to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1968 student march. Many of the protesters, including students who attend the National Autonomous University (UNAM), wore tape on their mouths to honor the 1968 student protest, known as the “March of Silence”. 

On 7th October 2018, more than 1,000 people marched in Ecatepec to protest against violence against women and girls after the police arrested two people allegedly responsible for killing 20 women. Protesters held candles and white flowers and chanted “not one more” in reference to the large number of women attacked, kidnapped and killed in recent months.

On 18th October 2018, a prominent immigration activist from Phoenix was arrested by police in Ciudad Hidalgo during a protest in support of migrants crossing the Mexico-Guatemala border. According to media reports, Irineo Mujica was roughed up by officers as he was placed in a police van. He is accused of property damage and resisting arrest, but Mujica’s group, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, says he was arrested while peacefully protesting the police. 

Expression

Over 700 journalists and human rights activists are at risk if the government does not adequately fund its federal protection program. The Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which supports journalists who have had their lives threatened, is expected to run out of funds this year. The delay in funding the program has raised questions over the government’s effectiveness in protecting the press. The mechanism has been operating since 2012, but the program has been unable to keep up with demand and has been widely criticised.

Another journalist killed in Mexico 

On 21st September 2018 journalist Mario Gomez Sanchez was killed in Chiapas. Gómez, a journalist with El Heraldo de Chiapas who had recently published a report on local officials accused of corruption, was gunned down by two men as he left his home in Chiapas. Sanchez had sought protection from the state after publishing his report, however,according to the authorities, his bodyguards were withdrawn "at his own request". His family had rejected this claim. The day before his murder, the government’s protection program announced it had run out of funds. Three men were reportedly arrested by authorities in connection to Gomez's murder. Several dozen journalists held a march to honor Gómez and to protest violence directed at journalists and the government’s inability to keep them safe.

Arbitrary detentions and attacks continue

On 7th September 2018, a reporter said he and another person were kidnapped, threatened and had their work equipment stolen by two men working for officials connected to a recent corruption case he had investigated. Ricardo Ramirez Juarez said two men with a gun approached him as he left his office and claimed they were working on behalf of a local elected official that is at the center of Juarez’s investigation. They then forced him to ingest a drink that caused him to lose consciousness. When he recovered, he found that his computer, identification documents, cell phone and 150,000 pesos (around 7,000 USD) were missing.

While attempting to video record police as they carried out an eviction in Lazaro Cardenas on 13th September 2018, a journalist said that police officers attacked him and others for recording the scene. Jorge Luis Ostria Vera told Article 19 that police officers in Michoacán assaulted him and damaged his camera and other work equipment while he filmed the incident. "They did not want images taken of what he was doing because it was wrong,” Vera said. One officer, according to Vera, even acted as if the reporter had attacked him before trying to delete the images on the journalist’s camera.

On 18th September 2018, a journalist with De Peso was detained and attacked by police officers while attempting to cover an alleged homicide in Paseo Martires. Enrique Castro told Article 19 that he arrived at a crime scene before the police and started taking photographs. As soon as the police arrived they told him to stop photographing and to leave the area. They also allegedly told the family members of the victim to attack him if they wanted. The police arrested Castro after he refused to leave, and repeatedly assaulted him while he was handcuffed. At the police station, officers tried to intimidate him with accusations of false charges before transferring him to another station and then releasing him without charge. 

On 25th September 2018, at least 20 armed government investigative agents entered the Oaxaca home of a reporter allegedly without a warrant with the purpose of intimidating him and his family. Deimos Sanchez Cruz, reporter with NVM, says he was never shown a warrant or given an explanation for the raid, but told Article 19 that the agents took his cell phone and fired warning shots in the direction of his family, which includes a 5-year old.

On 2nd October 2018, police officers in Michoacán arbitrarily detained and attacked a journalist without providing any explanation for his arrest. Jamie Valencia Adame says he was repeatedly assaulted by officers as they transported him between police facilities, but never properly explained to him why he was arrested. He was eventually fined 200 pesos (around 10 USD) for a minor offence, but not before being hit in the face and body and being threatened with a gun. According to Adame, one of the senior officers admitted to knowing he was a journalist.

On 5th October 2018, a journalist says he received a threatening package containing pictures and cell phone numbers of his family members. Jorge Mario Camacho Ibarra, director or the Blanco Negro Noticias, told Article 19 that the box was found at his office in Tijuana by his building’s manager. The media outlet has been targeted before, including identity theft of its Facebook page.

On 11th October 2018, an independent journalist was attacked by police and had his cell phone taken after he recorded on-duty police officers playing soccer. Gabriel Angeles Ovando says he observed a large number of police cars and went to see why they were all at the same location. On seeing the officers playing soccer he began videotaping them. Once they became aware of his presence, they started to attack him until a senior officer arrived on the scene and stopped them.

On 15th October 2018, a journalist was attacked by residents of Melchor Ocampor while trying to cover the scene of a homicide. Armando Gutiérrez, who is seen bloodied in a video taken immediately after the incident, says residents attacked him and took his cell phone after a police officer riled up a crowd of onlookers by yelling at Gutiérrez to stop filming the crime scene. He also says police watched as residents attacked him.

On 16th October 2018, a reporter says she was among a group who were  attacked by armed guards who broke up a protest organised by parents demanding the government arrest the man accused of sexually abusing 37 elementary school children. Yohali Resendiz with Grupo Imagen, says she was pushed and had her phone taken from her after she began recording the guards physically break up the protest.

New legislation

On 27th September 2018, legislators in the state of Veracruz passed an anti-cyberbullying bill to curb the publishing of online content containing sexual images for the purpose of revenge. The law states that anyone found guilty of using “any means of digital communication” to “disseminate harmful and malicious information about another person . . . that harms their reputation and self-esteem” could face up to two years in prison and hours of community service. However, critics of the bill say it goes too far and uses vague language that threatens freedom of expression. The state’s governor said he will veto the bill.

Positive development 

On 17th October 2018, a prominent journalist was back on the radio after being censored by Enrique Peña Nieto's government more than three years ago over an investigation into allegations of presidential corruption. Carmen Aristegui, a reporter known for investigating government corruption, says government pressure forced her employer, MVS Radio, to fire her in 2015 for broadcasting a report about Peña Nieto’s wife purchasing an expensive house. “We’ve been out of Mexican radio thanks to a censorship attack,” said Aristegui. “This announcement is a step against censorship, is a step toward freedom of speech.”