“PEN highlighted the need for better protection for journalists in its recent resolution passed at its 80th Congress. Despite accepting all recommendations on protecting journalists made at the UN’s Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record last year, Mexico appears to be paying only lip service to the pressing need to put an end to these killings. Effectively investigating them and bringing their perpetrators to justice is an important step in ending this embedded culture of impunity.” – Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee.
María del Rosario Fuentes Rubio and editor Jesús Antonio Gamboa Urías were both killed in the space of a week in October. These killings follow those of journalists Víctor Pérez Pérez and Octavio Rojas Hernández in September and August of this year.
On 15 October 2014, doctor and citizen journalist María del Rosario Fuentes Rubio was reportedly abducted by armed men as she left the Tierra Santa clinic in the north eastern state of Tamaulipas where she worked as a doctor. One day later tweets were sent from her Twitter account (subsequently suspended) announcing her death, along with a picture of her apparently lifeless body. She is the sixth reporter to be killed in Tamaulipas since 2010, making the state Mexico’s most deadliest along with Guerrero, Veracruz and Chihuahua.
A week after Fuentes’ abduction, on 22 October 2014, Jesús Antonio Gamboa Urías, editor of Nueva Prensa magazine, was found dead in Villa de Ahome in the western state of Sinaloa. He had gone missing 12 days earlier. According to reports, state investigators have established that Gamboa, who also went by the nickname ‘El Tony Gamboa’, was shot multiple times and left partially buried behind a local motel following a disagreement in a bar. Two men are reported to have been apprehended by the state authorities, while four more are sought in connection with the crime.
On 3 September, Víctor Pérez Pérez, a journalist for crime magazine Sucesos, was shot dead at his home in Cuidad Juárez, in the northern state of Chihuahua, after assailants forced entry to his home. According to local press reports, municipal police had arrested one of his alleged killers by the end of the day. The other is thought to remain at large. His late brother, Candelario Pérez Pérez, also a journalist with Sucesos, was shot dead on 23 June 2008 as he made his way to visit relatives.
On 11 August 2014, Octavio Rojas Hernández, crime correspondent for the newspaper El Buen Tono, based in Veracruz state, and municipal press officer for Cosolapa, Oaxaca state –both in southern Mexico – was shot dead by an unidentified assailant at his home in San Jose Cosolapa, Oaxaca. Rojas had recently returned home from an event in the community of Palma Sola, Oaxaca, when a man knocked on his door to enquire about the sale of a car parked outside. He was shot four times as he went outside. Rojas’ colleagues reportedly believe that his murder relates to his recent articles for El Buen Tono, in which he reported on gang-related activity. However, a statement made by the Oaxaca state attorney general made no reference to his work as a correspondent for the newspaper, giving rise to concerns that the authorities will not pursue his work as a journalist as a line of inquiry.
This month, Mexico marked its annual Day of the Dead on 2 November, which coincided with the UN’s first International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. Among those remembered are the 56 print and citizen journalists killed in Mexico since December 2006, when former president Felipe Calderón began his armed offensive against the drug cartels (case details for killings since 2010 are available here). At least nine print journalists have disappeared in the same period. Few if any of these crimes have been solved. PEN International calls on the Mexican authorities to carry out full and swift investigations into each of these killings and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Fuentes regularly tweeted about violence and organised crime under the pseudonym ‘Felina’ (‘Catwoman’) using the @Miut3 account. She had previously contributed to Valor por Tamaulipas(Courage for Tamaulipas) – a website used by citizen journalists to report on criminal activity – until she felt forced to stop in 2013 for safety reasons; she also regularly posted on an associated Facebook page called Responsabilidad por Tamaulipas (Responsibility for Tamaulipas). In February 2013 an unidentified drug cartel offered a reward of US$44,000 for the identities of Valor por Tamaulipas’ administrators.
According to local judicial officials, Fuentes had been previously abducted from Hospital Miravalle de Reynosa on 5 October and bundled into an ambulance where she was forced to treat an assumed gang-member for a gunshot wound. It is unclear precisely when she was released, but Fuentes quit her job at the hospital three days later, on 8 October 2014.
Tweets sent from Fuentes’ account on 16 October warned against others risking their lives by informing on organised crime, and that the cartels were closing in on those who do. Subsequent tweets exposed Fuentes’ true identity and posted two images of her – the first alive, the second apparently dead.
Since Fuente’s body has yet to be recovered, the case officially remains open as an abduction and is reportedly being led by an anti-kidnapping squad, although officials believe that Fuentes’ kidnapping and probable murder are linked to her work as a doctor.
PEN International has been campaigning for an end to impunity for the killings of journalists in Mexico since 2009 when it launched its campaign Freedom to Write in the Americas. Since then, the organisation has sent two high level delegations to the country in January 2012 and March 2013 to press the authorities to address the issue more seriously, as well as publishing in 2012 its Write Against Impunity anthology, a literary protest highlighting the escalating violence against journalists, writers and bloggers in Latin America – in particular Mexico, Honduras and Brazil – and the impunity enjoyed by those who commit these crimes.
For further details please contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email: tamsin.mitchell [at] pen-international [dot] org