RAN 47/11 6 September 2011
The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International (WiPC) protests the murder of Contralinea founder Ana María Marcela Yarce Viveros who, along with freelance journalist Rocio González Trápaga, was found dead in Mexico City on 1 September 2011. Both women were reportedly abducted the previous night and strangled. Yarce’s murder brings the number of print journalists killed in Mexico this year to eight. The WiPC calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate the women’s murder as a matter of the utmost urgency, focusing on their journalistic work as a possible motive, and to bring the culprits to justice.
Ana María Marcela Yarce Viveros (pictured, left), founder, reporter and head of public relations of the bimonthly political magazine Contralinea, was found dead near a cemetery in a park in a poor neighbourhood of the capital Mexico City on 1 September 2011, along with freelance journalist and former Televisa reporter Rocio González Trápaga (pictured, right). Yarce and González, both 48, were reportedly abducted as they left their office in the city centre the previous night and strangled. Their bodies were found naked with nooses around their necks and their hands tied behind their backs.
The Mexico City attorney general’s office is investigating the murders and has yet to give any motive. According to the international free expression organisation Article 19, the attorney general said that although they were not ruling out any line of investigation, Yarce had not been working on any specific journalistic investigation at the time of her death and that the authorities were focusing on González’ case. González, who owned a currency exchange point at Mexico City’s international airport, apparently withdrew a large amount of money on the afternoon of 31 August, reports Article 19. A spokesperson for Contralinea also said that Yarce was no longer writing or leading projects for the magazine at the time of her death. Mexico’s human rights commission reportedly planned to open its own investigation into the murders.
Contralinea has frequently exposed corruption in its coverage and has been the target of intimidation and judicial harassment, particularly since 2007 when it published reports that proved embarrassing for the national oil company PEMEX. The magazine’s office was reportedly broken into last year and journalistic material and a laptop were stolen.
Journalist killings in Mexico City are relatively rare: the last recorded was of José Manuel Nava Sánchez, author and former director and editor of the newspaper Excelsior, who was stabbed to death in his apartment on 16 November 2006.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, 42 print journalists and two writers have been murdered, while 10 print journalists have gone missing in the same period. Nine of the killings and three of the disappearances occurred in 2010 alone; the toll for 2011 to date stands at eight and one respectively. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. PEN International believes that it is likely that many of these writers were targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. While organised crime groups are responsible for many attacks, state agents, especially government officials and the police, are reportedly the main perpetrators of violence against journalists, and complicit in its continuance.
On 3 June 2011, PEN Canada, in collaboration with the International Human Rights Program at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, published a timely and provocative report on the situation in Mexico: Corruption, Impunity, Silence: The War on Mexico’s Journalists (also available in Spanish). The same day Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail published an op-ed by John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International, on the report.
•The Guardian (2 September 2011): English
•Article 19 (2 September 2011): English; Spanish
•Reporters Without Borders (2 September 2011): English; Spanish