London, 26 July 2017- PEN International, PEN Mexico and PEN San Miguel de Allende are gravely concerned by the pervasive attacks and threats continuously being made against Mexican journalists. The levels of impunity for crimes against journalists are taking a toll on freedom of expression in the country. In the face of such violence and the failure of the local and federal authorities to ensure their protection, journalists, activists and human rights defenders have had to fight to protect themselves.
On 13 July, Lydia Cacho was reportedly threatened by a man who approached her car while she was stopped at a traffic light in the streets of Quintana Roo. This man said: “Lydia Cacho, don’t stick your nose into Punta Brava, because there are those belonging to the last letter there [a reference to a known criminal group operating in the area].”
On 19 July, it was reported that Pedro Canché and Amir Ibrahim had been threatened by alleged members of organised crime, who had hung banners in various places across Quintana Roo, threatening them with death.
“PEN holds that freedom of expression is essential to the realisation of all other human rights. Recognising the bravery with which Mexican journalists carry out their daily work, we urge the Mexican authorities to fulfill their promise to protect them and guarantee freedom of the press, information and expression in the country,” said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International.
It is not the first time that they have been threatened. Lydia Cacho, journalist and writer, PEN / Pinter Prize in 2010, has been repeatedly threatened as a result of her investigations. Pedro Canché was imprisoned in 2014 in connection with his journalism; and Amir Ibrahim director of ElQuintanaRoo.mx, has received messages via WhatsApp, threatening his life and that of his family. These are not isolated incidents. According to reports dated 21 May 2017, Pina Tinzón Solís, also a reporter for El QuintanaRoo.mx, was beaten and threatened with death.
Writer and journalist, Sanjuana Martínez Montemayor, has also been the victim of repeated threats and harassment since 2008. In May this year, she reported receiving threats via social media. The constant harassment that she faces affects not only her daily life, but also her freedom to continue writing and researching. In June, PEN Mexico called for the Mexican authorities to ensure her safety. Additionally, on July 19, journalist Rubén López Domínguez’ car was found riddled with ten bullet holes; an intimidating message was also left on the windscreen.
The threats continue with each passing day. On 21 July, José Maldonado Sotelo, director of the Michoacán-based Noventa Grados news agency, reportedly received a threatening email message warning him to refrain from investigating or reporting on the activities of the state attorney general’s office.
In a positive move, the former mayor of Silao, Guanajuato state, was sentenced to 2 years in prison after he admitted commissioning an attack on Karla Janeth Silva, a reporter with El Heraldo de León, as well as threatening Adriana Elizabeth Palacios, also a contributor to El Heraldo de León. This is a landmark case as he is the first state functionary to receive a sentence for threatening a journalist.
PEN International, PEN Mexico and PEN San Miguel de Allende urgently call on the federal and state governments to safeguard the security of their journalists and all their citizens, ensuring their rights to freedom of expression and information are upheld. PEN also calls on the state and federal authorities to investigate the threats and punish those responsible, with the involvement of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE).