The United Nations human rights office today expressed concern over the increase in the number of killings of journalists in Mexico this year, and urged the country’s authorities to launch immediate investigations to punish the perpetrators.
In the past month alone, four journalists have been killed for their reporting on organized crime. The most recent killing occurred last Saturday, when the body of María Elizabeth Macías, editor of a Nuevo Laredo newspaper, was found decapitated with a handwritten message linking her murder to her postings on Internet-based social networks.
During a news conference in Geneva, Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), condemned the killings and said they illustrated the “the exceptionally vulnerable situation of journalists in particular, as well as the deteriorating situation of freedom of expression in the country.”
According to the non-governmental organization (NGO) Reporters without Borders, 80 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, making it one of the most dangerous countries to exercise freedom of expression.
The situation for civilians has also worsened as gruesome killings continue to take place in the country. On 13 September a man and a woman were found dead, hanging from an overpass in Nuevo Laredo with a handwritten message saying “this is what will happen to Internet users.”
“It is clear that such killings are designed to send a chilling message to silence reports on drug gang violence and to challenge campaigns led by the authorities to promote anonymous reporting of criminal activities,” Mr. Colville said.
Other killings that took place this month include 23 men and 12 women, whose tortured bodies were found in two abandoned trucks in Veracruz City, and the finding of five severed heads inside a bag alongside boards with messages in Acapulco.
“We understand the challenge the Mexican Government is facing in its fight against rising violence. However, we are also extremely concerned at the prevalent impunity regarding these killings, and the many other similar crimes committed in recent years,” Mr. Colville said.
“We are particularly concerned that some of these crimes appear to have been committed with the cooperation or acquiescence of state agents,” he added.
OHCHR called for investigations into the killings, reminding Mexican authorities of their obligation to protect citizens from threats to the right to life, security, and freedom of expression.