Mexico is once again under the media spotlight following the murder of Miguel Angel Jiménez Blanco, a community activist who helped families search for their missing relatives. On 8 August, his body was found, in the taxi he owned, on the outskirts of Acapulco in the southwestern state of Guerrero. He had been shot in the head.
Following the disappearance and alleged massacre of forty-three Mexican students who had clashed with police on 26 September last year in the southern city of Iguala, Jiménez Blanco had led search parties for their bodies and helped shed light on the disappearances of hundreds of other missing people.
Impunity in Mexico remains of serious concern to PEN and other human rights organisations. The deaths of four more journalists in recent months add to the appalling death toll of Mexican print and internet journalists and bloggers, which now stands at seventy-one since 2004. Around 90 per cent of these murders remain unsolved, allowing violence against the media to thrive.
Early in the morning of 18 June 2015, Ismael Díaz López, a reporter for El Criollo and Tabasco Hoy newspapers, was stabbed to death by unknown individuals who broke into his home in Villahermosa in Tabasco state, southern Mexico. On 26 June 2015, the body of Gerardo Nieto Alvarez, editor of the weekly paper El Tábano, was discovered by his daughter at his office in Comonfort in Guanajuato state, central Mexico. His throat had been slit.
In the early hours of 1 July 2015, the body of 46-year-old Juan Mendoza Delgado, editor of the local news website Escribiendo la Verdad (‘Writing the Truth’), was found on the Santa Fe to San Julián de Veracruz motorway. Mendoza Delgado, who also worked as a taxi driver, had been reported missing after he failed to return home on 30 June. His family has challenged official statements saying he had been run over by a car. Shortly before Mendoza Delgado’s death, the Veracruz state governor linked some journalists to organised crime and warned them to ‘behave’. According to PEN, Veracruz is the most dangerous state in Mexico in which to be a journalist: eleven print and internet journalists have been killed there since 2004.
On 2 July 2015, in Oaxaca state, journalist Filadelfo Sánchez Sarmiento was shot dead outside the offices of La Favorita 103.3 FM radio station, where he hosted a news programme. Sánchez Sarmiento had also written for local newspapers and had reportedly received death threats in the run-up to the June 2015 congressional elections. The radio station regularly receives threats.
Official investigations into the murders of Díaz López and Nieto Alvarez are reportedly focusing on personal conflicts as possible motives, rather than their journalistic work. In Díaz López’s case, a tweet by the Tabasco state attorney general’s office suggested that his murder was linked to a family dispute. The Guanajuato state attorney general, Carlos Zamarripa Aguirre, was quick to deny the possibility of any connection to Nieto Alvarez’s work, and claimed that, based on the crime scene, Nieto Alvarez’s murder was likely to have been the result of a violent argument. PEN is seeking to establish whether investigations have been opened into Mendoza Delgado’s and Sánchez Sarmiento’s deaths.
PEN believes that the journalists’ murders were in retaliation for their work. John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International, has said, ‘Four journalists dead in two weeks. You cannot claim to be a government when you cannot protect your citizens, when you cannot protect their freedom of expression, when your writers are being mercilessly slaughtered because they have raised their voices. The government of Mexico must assume its responsibilities. We are past the stage of urgency.’
PEN is calling on La Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión (FEADLE) to assert its jurisdiction in all these cases and to ensure that any possible links to the journalists’ work are properly investigated. FEADLE is the federal authority responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crimes against freedom of expression, including the murder of journalists.
Readers might like to send appeals expressing serious concern about the murders of Miguel Angel Jiménez Blanco, Ismael Díaz López, Gerardo Nieto Alvarez, Juan Mendoza Delgado and Filadelfo Sánchez Sarmiento; calling on the Mexican authorities to ensure that any possible links to their work are thoroughly investigated; and urging that the investigations be led by FEADLE.
Appeals to be addressed to:
His Excellency Ambassador Diego Gómez Pickering
16 St George Street
London W1S 1FD
Fax: +44 (0)20 7495 4035
Updates: Nabeel Rajab (LR, May 2015), a writer and the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was released from prison on 13 July 2015 after more than three months in solitary confinement. Thank you to readers who sent appeals.
Abduljalil al-Singace (LR, October 2012) is serving a life sentence in Bahrain for his peaceful opposition activities and is currently being held in solitary confinement at Al-Qalaa Hospital, where he is denied any form of media or writing materials. English PEN has launched a campaign that includes sending writing materials, obtaining signatures for a petition, and social media actions. For more information, visit englishpen.org/campaigns/bahrain-abduljalil-al-singace-denied-writing-materials/
In recent weeks, veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu (LR, June 2014), currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for ‘leaking state secrets abroad’, has been suffering from increased chest pain and requires further medication. A medical examination indicated that there are blockages to her arteries, as well as abnormalities in her lymph nodes. PEN has renewed appeals for her release.