Two journalists killed in Mexico and several facing attacks and harassment

Expression

Two journalists killed in Mexico

On 20th February 2019, a radio show host and activist who advocated against a gas pipeline project was killed outside of his home just days before a vote on the project was scheduled. Samir Flores Soberanes belonged to the People's Front in Defense of the Land and Water Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala (FPDTA-MPT), a group critical of the Proyecto Integral Morelos project near the indigenous community of Huexca. According to media reports, Soberanes attended a public forum about the project the day before he was killed. Authorities claim that organised crime is responsible for his death but his friends and colleagues say he was targeted because of his activism. "Samir was threatened on several occasions since 2012, he was defamed and even flagged on flyers and Internet memes,” according to the FPDTA-MPT. Thousands of people participated in a march in Mexico City to protest his murder. Protesters held signs with messages saying, "Samir didn't die, the government killed him” and "Justice for Samir".

On 15th March 2019, a journalist who frequently covered crime and drug trafficking stories in northern Sonora was shot and killed at his home by an unknown assailant. Santiago Barroso had been a popular show host for multiple radio stations and a writer for Contraseña. According to Article 19, an armed individual shot Barroso three times after he answered the door at his house. The motive for the killing remains under investigation.

Attacks against journalists continue 

Four Yucatan-based journalists were reportedly attacked, detained or threatened by police and other officials in separate incidents related to their work. According to Article 19, Sergio Ivan Chi Chi, a reporter with the Newspaper of Yucatan, was attacked and injured by four men on 1st April 2019 while he was delivering newspapers in Ticul. The attackers reportedly referenced his work, telling him, “you know what you have done” while attacking him. In a separate incident, José Alfredo Uicab was threatened, detained and questioned for nearly 10 hours by police officers on 4th March while trying to report on the arrest of his brother. Police reportedly told Uicab that he was not permitted to take photos unless the officer “authorised it” and then asked him to delete his other photographs or risk being arrested. 

In a separate incident, Bartolomé Canché Pech was threatened and followed by police on 28th February while attempting to report on a suspect being beaten by police. Pech was threatened again on 4th March by two men who referenced the journalist’s work. Another reporter, Edwin Canché, was also threatened by police and local officials. Canché told Article 19 that they are trying to intimidate reporters from speaking out. “It is a way to keep quiet….accusations are made, fear is instilled,” he said.

A reporter was reportedly arrested after he wrote a story alleging a conflict of interest by an elected official over payments related to an advertising contract. According to Article 19, Efraín González, an independent journalist, is facing several charges including making threats and slander for publishing a 11th March story about Claudio Bres Garza, the Municipal President of Piedras Negras. Free press advocates say the government arrested González to intimidate him into silence and that the charges are “disproportionate” to the alleged crimes.

On 14th March 2019, a building housing a media company in Veracruz was shot at with a powerful gun, but no one was injured. According to Article 19, the offices of Format Seven news were attacked by an unknown person using a 3.80 caliber gun to shoot at the building’s metal gate in the early hours of the morning. A photo of the gate shows a large hole that appears to be from a gun. In 2015, multiple journalists with Format Seven were threatened by a public official because of their investigative work.

On 20th March 2019, a journalist was shot by an unknown attacker outside a convenience store in Salina Cruz. Jesús Hiram Moreno, the director of digital media at Evidencias, says he saw a man riding on a motorcycle pull out a gun and shoot him multiple times before speeding away. Moreno survived the attack and told Article 19 that he did not think it was an attempted robbery because “the attacker did not say a word or try to take his car away.” In 2014, Moreno had been threatened because of activities related to his work.

On 26th March 2019, a journalist with La Prensa de Tlaxacala says he was assaulted, kidnapped and forced to conduct a live interview with an elected official because of his investigative work linked to corruption. Cristián Papalotzin López says he was investigating Atexcatzinco Benito López López, the auxiliary president of San Francisco at his office when he was attacked by his staff and forced to interview the elected official to allegedly "clear the name of the president". In a video taken after the incident, the reporter appears shaken and says the auxiliary president’s staff made threats toward him and his colleagues, saying they knew what kind of cars they drive. "I'm nervous and scared because this has never happened to me," he said. He also believes that he is being followed and watched by staff working for the auxiliary president.

Ana Luisa Cantoral says she requested assistance from the Ombudsman for Human Rights of the People after receiving multiple death threats on 10th April 2019. Cantoral, a reporter with Pagina 3 and MVM Noticias, says she received two text messages on her phone that contained threats and indicated that she was being watched. Cantoral believes that she is being targeted because of her investigative work on the Public Security Secretariat and told Article 19 that “a reliable source inside the institution warned me that they were going to open a research folder, they would seek to damage my image and possibly they would give me a physical scare".

Peaceful Assembly

On 2nd February 2019, about 4,000 people marched in Mexico City to demand the government do more to stop violence aimed at women. Women and girls chanted and carried signs, many with the names and photographs of victims who had been murdered or kidnapped. Online, people shared their stories using popular hashtags like #LaNocheEsNuestra (the night is ours) and #LaCalleEsNuestra (the street is ours). The day before the rally, hundreds of bicycle riders staged events in different cities as part of the Rodada for Women's Lives and Freedom. In a related story, hundreds of students disrupted classes at University of Ciudad Juarez on 8th March to protest the killing of a pregnant college student. Authorities say they have arrested a suspect who is believed to be the victim’s ex-boyfriend.

On 26th February 2019, hundreds of teachers in Oaxaca staged a 72-hour protest outside of the San Lázaro Legislative Palace in Mexico City to pressure the state to hire more teachers and improve other working conditions for teachers and students. Organised by Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), the teacher’s union, the teachers and their supporters seek the creation of 13,000 new positions and to cancel or change some of the educational reforms passed in 2013.

On 1st April 2019, farmers and their supporters blocked a major border crossing at the U.S.-Mexico border to draw attention to improper trading practices they say hurt domestic farmers. The Reynosa-Pharr International Bridge, one of the border’s busiest crossings, was temporarily blocked for about eight hours as farmers prevented trucks and other vehicles from passing. Farmers have been protesting for months and vow to continue until the government changes current trade practices with the U.S.

Association

On 11th April 2019, the House of Deputies passed an amendment to the Federal Labor Law (FLL) to comply with the International Labor Organization and the recently negotiated United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The amendment lays out guidelines and procedures for unions and its members to collectively bargain and recognises “international Labor principles” like freedom of association. It will now go to the House of Senators for a vote.