Mexico: failure of protection mechanisms exposed by murder of third print journalist in Veracruz this year
Image: Pedro Tamayo Rosas (veracruzinforma.com.mx)
27 July 2016
Federal and state authorities must strengthen their programmes to safeguard the lives of at-risk journalists following the shocking murder of a journalist supposedly under the protection of the Veracruz government, PEN International said today. Freelancer Pedro Tamayo Rosas is the seventh print journalist to be killed in Mexico this year, and the third from Veracruz state.
‘I am sickened by the killing of yet another journalist in Veracruz – all the more so because Pedro Tamayo was known to be at risk and his safety had been entrusted to the state authorities,’ said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International.
‘This has to change. The authorities must act now to investigate this killing and any links to Tamayo’s journalism, and to find a way to make these protection programmes work.’
Tamayo (43) was shot multiple times by two unidentified assailants outside his home in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, late on 20 July and died on the way to hospital. His wife was reportedly present when he was killed.
The journalist wrote for the regional newspaper El Piñero de la Cuenca and the news website Al Calor Político, among others, covering mainly covering crime, violence and social protests. He reportedly also ran a Facebook page entitled En la línea del fuego, los riesgos de la noticia (In the line of fire, the risks of reporting) to which he contributed anonymously.
Tamayo was under police protection after receiving death threats in late January this year which had caused him and his family to leave Veracruz temporarily. The protection was provided via the Veracruz State Commission for the Protection of Journalists (Comisión Estatal para la Atención y Protección de Periodistas – CEAPP), a body created by the Veracruz state government in 2012 but in principle independent
According to reports, the threats followed the journalist’s investigation of the disappearance of five young people from Veracruz state in January, who are suspected of having been abducted and killed by the Jalisco New Generation cartel. The police were reportedly responsible for handing the young people over to the cartel and for the threats against Tamayo.
Following the threats, Tamayo and his family left Veracruz on 25 January and were eventually relocated by CEAPP to Tijuana, Baja California. After a few months Tamayo decided to return to Tierra Blanca where he continued to receive protection from CEAPP in the form of a regular police patrol. According to one source cited by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the police patrol failed to appear on the day Tamayo was killed, though the Veracruz state attorney general, Luis Ángel Bravo, has denied this. CPJ has also reported that it is likely that Tamayo worked as a police informant on organised crime as well as a journalist.
The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has expressed dismay that Tamayo was murdered in spite of the protection measures he had been, granted and despite the Early Alert System and Contingency Plans for the protection of journalists in Veracruz set up by the Ministry of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación – SEGOB) in November 2015.
The Veracruz State Attorney General’s office (Fiscalía General del Estado – FGE) and the federal Attorney General’s Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos en contra de la Libertad de Expresión – FEADLE) have opened a joint investigation into Tamayo’s murder. FEADLE is the federal authority responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crimes against freedom of expression, including the murder of journalists.
The FGE has stated that it is not excluding any lines of investigation, including considering Tamayo’s journalistic work as a possible motive.
In a press conference on 25 July, Bravo stated that the suspected killers had been identified. He also said that the testimony of some 11 state police agents who were present at the crime scene shortly after Tamayo was killed was crucial, but would not be drawn on whether there had been complicity on the part of the police.
Tamayo is the seventh print journalist to be killed in Mexico this year alone, and the third in Veracruz state. Anabel Flores Salazar, crime reporter for El Sol de Orizaba, was found dead on 9 February, a day after she was abducted from her home in Orizaba, Veracruz. Manuel Torres, an experienced freelance journalist, was shot dead in Poza Rica, Veracruz, on 14 May.
The killing comes less than a year after the high-profile murder of Veracruz photojournalist Rubén Espinosa, who was killed in Mexico City on 31 July 2015 after relocating from his home state due to death threats.
According to PEN International research, at least 14 print and internet journalists have been killed in Veracruz since 2004, more than in any other state; 11 of them have died since 2010, when Jaime Duarte became state governor. Veracruz was the state with the highest incidence of attacks on journalists in the first four months of 2016, according to a report by Article 19.
At least 78 print and internet journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2004, according to PEN International research, while another 11 have disappeared. Around 90 per cent of these cases remain unresolved.
PEN International calls on the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) to assert its jurisdiction in Tamayo’s case, to ensure that any possible links between the journalist’s murder and his work, as well as all allegations of police complicity in the crime, are properly investigated.
PEN also calls on the federal and state authorities to conduct a thorough review of the effectiveness of the mechanisms it has put in place to protect journalists, in conjunction with journalists’ and civil society groups and to ensure that these are adequately resourced.