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Mexico Is a Killing Ground for Journalists

Journalists in Mexico are finding themselves the target of death threats, physical attacks, arbitrary detentions, and assassinations.
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On April 28, 2012, Mexican journalist Regina Martínez, the correspondent from Veracruz of Proceso, Mexico's, was found strangled in the bathroom of her home in Xalapa, Veracruz, in the Gulf of Mexico. Monday marked the second anniversary of her assassination and two years of impunity as no proper investigation has been conducted and the guilty parties have yet to be brought to justice.

Martinez's case is emblematic of the current situation for journalists in Mexico who — as the war on drugs declared by ex-President Felipe Calderón in 2006 continues to rage — increasingly find themselves the target of death threats, physical attacks, arbitrary detentions and assassinations.


Six months after Martínez's murder, the sub–prosecutor of Veracruz released the results of an expert investigation and revealed the detainment of one of two men who are suspected of murdering the journalist, while breaking into her home.

"As the result of a scientific, responsible and professional investigation, we have managed to shine some light on the Regina Martínez Pérez murder case, the suspected perpetrators of which […] have confessed, establishing conclusively that the motive was robbery," said Amadeo Flores Espinoza, sub-prosecutor of Veracruz.

Javier Duarte, the governor of Veracruz, reiterated Espinoza's words in his official statement about the investigation of the murderer of Martínez on October 31, 2012.

"Even though (the prosecutors) were under a lot of pressure, they acted prudently and intelligently to pursue all lines of investigation to clear up this lamentable event," commented Duarte.

Jorge Carrasco, a fellow reporter for Proceso, was investigating her assassination until he himself received death threats.

Speaking with VICE News, Carrasco stated that her death represents a direct attack on critical independent media outlets like Proceso. "Regina's case demonstrates that Mexico is not a democratic country, because journalists wouldn't be forced to work in conditions like this if Mexico was a democracy," Carrasco added.

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According to a report on impunity and negligence released on April 23 by Article 19 — an organization that works worldwide to guarantee freedom of expression and protection of press, monitoring and documenting attacks against journalists and creating annual registries of these events — 66 aggressions were committed against journalists in Mexico in the first third of 2014.

Article 19 firmly believes that the majority of aggressions suffered by media workers aren't at the hands of organized crime, but instead civil servants.

"The state doesn't fulfill their responsibilities, thus putting journalists at greater risk."

Dario Ramirez, the director of Article 19 — who had his computer and personal documents stolen from him when unknown agents raided his house on March 16, the day before the organization presented their annual report on violence against journalists in Mexico — stated that it's difficult to improve the situation for journalists when you can't confide in the government.

"We have been trying to strengthen the rule of law in the protection of journalists, but when we have public servants becoming the perpetrators this becomes impossible," Ramirez said in an interview with VICE News.

In May 2012, the Federal Government passed the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, but few people have been able to access its benefits, and those who have been offered protection mechanisms say that they are inadequate.


According to the Article 19 report, two men attempted to kidnap Ulises Mejía del Ángel — co-owner of Veracruz based newspaper, Notivision — who receives state protection under this mechanism. The alleged kidnappers were apprehended and freed almost immediately after, proving this inadequacy.

Ramírez added that Veracruz is possibly the most dangerous place in the world for journalists, arriving at this conclusion based on the state´s size and the number of communication professionals who have been attacked and assassinated in the region. Since Governor Duarte's administration began in 2010, nine journalists have been killed in Veracruz, and three have gone missing.

The government of Veracruz has repeatedly denied that these murders are related to their profession and maintains that they have conducted proper investigations concerning these cases.

"We have clearly demonstrated that here in Veracruz there is no room for impunity and all those who engage in delinquent acts will suffer the consequences set forth by the law," Governor Duarte declared in a press conference on October 31, 201.

On February 5, journalist Gregorio "Goyo" Jimenez was kidnapped outside of his home in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz by a group of armed men, while he was working on the case of a local missing person.

Human rights defenders and activists throughout the country immediately launched a campaign urging the government to search for the missing journalist.


Five days later he was found murdered and mutilated in a common grave, making his the tenth confirmed case of a murdered journalist in the state.

"The state doesn't fulfill their responsibilities, thus putting journalists at greater risk," Ramirez told VICE News. In the past year Article 19 has received two death threats and suffered five security incidents.

The Article 19 report also revealed a more than 100 percent increase in attacks on journalists in Mexico City, which had previously been considered one of the safest places for media professionals to exercise their trade in Mexico.

In an interview with VICE News, Francisco Sandoval Alarcon, a deputy officer at Article 19, said that 77 journalists have been killed since 2000.

This statistic is actually lower than the government's own national human rights commission — Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH) — which places the figure at 88 journalists murdered during that same time frame.

Sandoval explained that the discrepancy in numbers is due to the methodology used to determine whether or not the journalist´s profession was confirmed to have been the principal motive for their assassination. He remarked that Article 19 is not convinced that 11 of the journalists referenced in the CNDH statistics were killed for their profession and therefore are not included in their report.

According to the international press freedom group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Mexico´s journalistic impunity index ranks at seventh place in the world — surpassed only by Iraq, Somalia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Afghanistan.


With such grisly statistics, journalists have banded together to form support networks both to share security protocols and demand investigations into their colleague's deaths. One of these groups — the Journalist Network of Juarez — has denounced 19 journalists' deaths in the state of Chihuahua since 2000.

Since Enrique Peña Nieto became President and Miguel Angel Mancera took office as Mexico City´s Head of Government in December 2012, there have been increased incidents of repression of protesters and silencing of journalists — who are attempting to document these aggressions and the violence that is afflicting the nation.

To respond to these threats, Article19 has formed the network #RompeElMiedo — which means "Break the Fear" — to provide support for journalists and anyone interested in documenting protests.

The Mexican government has created the Special Federal Prosecutor's Office for Crimes Against Journalists, yet in its eight years of existence it has yet to take legal action against a single perpetrator responsible for attacking or assassinating journalists. VICE News requested an interview with this Special Prosecutor's office but no government official was able to speak on the topic.

"I think impunity really works in the best interest of the status quo," said Ramirez. "In terms of the Mexican state, I believe they have failed to bring justice, and it is convenient for them to have a weak press and a press living in fear."

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