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MEXICO
Journalists in the line of fire
Latinamerica Press
8/17/2015
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Assassinations for the practice of journalism would have political motivations.

On July 31, the Mexican photojournalist with AVC Noticias and a collaborator with the magazine Proceso, Rubén Espinosa, and, the human rights defender, Nadia Vera, were assassinated in Mexico City along with three other women, two stylists and a domestic worker.

Although the special investigation initiated Aug. 2 by the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) has not yet revealed the motive behind these assassinations, relatives of Espinosa point out that the victim had been receiving threatening calls related to his work for two months. In order to protect himself, Espinosa decided to leave the southeastern state of Veracruz, where he was working, and reside in Mexico City. Vera had been present in recent demonstrations in defense of human rights in Veracruz.

The prosecutor, Rodolfo Ríos, stated in a press conference that each of the five victims had “a wound in the head from the shot of a firearm,” as well as “excoriations in various parts of the body presumably due to struggle.”

On Aug. 10, the head of government for Mexico City, Miguel Ángel Espinoza, announced the approval of the Law for the Protection of Defenders of Human Rights and Journalists in the Federal District, that creates the so-called “Mechanism for the Integral Protection of Defenders of Human Rights and Journalists in the Federal District,” whose objective is to “protect, respect and guarantee human rights of persons who find themselves at risk as a result of the defense or promotion of human rights and the exercise of the freedom of expression and journalism in the Federal District; as well as to promote public policies, training and coordination in achieving the purpose of preventing actions that weaken said rights.”

Veracruz is considered to be one of the most violent states in the country and the most dangerous for the practice of journalism. Since 2011, 16 reporters have been assassinated in Veracruz for doing their job. The most recent was Juan Heriberto Santos, a former correspondent of powerful media group Televisa, in this area.

Also, during the past year, 1,130 homicides, 157 kidnappings and 244 extortions were registered, according to the statistics of the Secretary of Government.

Espinosa reported widely on the demonstrations demanding information on the assassination of journalists in Veracruz.

Hundreds of people gathered together in various cities of the country, including Mexico City, to protest the climate of violence and insecurity that prevails in the country. Cristina Guerrero, a reporter who participated in the demonstrations, said that “the reporters that are not bought are killed and disappeared.”

Political reasons
In a television interview, Espinosa as well as Vera had blamed the Governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte, if something should happen to them.

Duarte denied any link to the crime. “I want to be clear that I am totally uninvolved with the events of July 31 in Mexico City,” he said in a press release.

International organizations and civil society have demanded a full and thorough investigation on the possible political motivation of the assassinations. Since 2000, the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression of the PGR has registered 103 assassinations of reporters and journalists in the entire country, and 8 so far in 2015.

“With the level of violence against journalists in Mexico increasing at an alarming rate, we hope that this case does not become the latest example of the generalized impunity that prevails in Mexico, which for journalists is nearly 90 percent,” declared in a press release on Aug. 4 Carlos Ponce, director of the Latin America Program of Freedom House, an US organization which defends freedom of expression, based in Washington.

Article 19, international organization which also defends freedom of expression, has denounced for a long time the vulnerable situation of journalists working in Veracruz.

“The underlying problem is impunity. If these cases are not prosecuted, this is saying that these attacks are allowed,” said Jesús Robles, lawyer for Article 19, in statements to the press. “Most of investigations of the death of journalists in Veracruz are still open.”

Meanwhile, the governmental National Human Rights Commission demanded that the line of investigation into the death of Espinosa should be related “to the journalistic work of the photojournalist” and claimed the authorities to grant “urgent protection measures,” especially for the families of the victims. The first inquiries pointed towards a homicide committed by organized crime.

Pedro Matías, correspondent for Proceso magazine, in Oaxaca, declared that reporters “are tired of being the object of aggression. For the authorities we only exist in the moment of sending out obituaries.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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