Press release

Brazil and Mexico: Killed for speaking out...

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ARTICLE 19

14 Mar 2013

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Two countries on one continent, one growing problem: Violence and free speech in 2012

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New research published today by the international advocacy group ARTICLE 19 reveals that in 2012:

  • 7 journalists were murdered in MEXICO over something that they reported.
  • Violence against journalists and media workers in MEXICO increased by more than 20% in a year.
  • 16 journalists and human rights defenders were murdered in BRAZIL for speaking out about issues.
  • 1 journalist or human rights defender is murdered every 4 weeks in BRAZIL for speaking out about an issue (7 journalists and 9 human rights defenders).

The research documents the number and nature of attacks on free speech in the countries with the largest economies in Latin America.

ARTICLE 19 finds that the governments of both Mexico and Brazil are responsible for this growing problem in two crucial ways. First, agents of the state are directly implicated in violence in an alarming number of cases. Second, both states fail to recognise the true nature of the problem and their efforts to address the problem are meagre and insubstantial.

Mexico:

7 journalists were murdered for speaking out. 2 journalists were abducted and are still missing as a result of their work. There were 8 attacks on the premises of media organisations using either firearms or explosives because of something that had been published or broadcast.

Shockingly in almost half of the cases (44%), state officials are directly implicated in that violence.

Violence against journalists in Mexico City increased by 64% in 2012, making the federal district as violent as Veracruz, which was considered the most dangerous city in the country in 2011.

Brazil:

16 journalists and human rights defenders were murdered in 2012 for speaking about issues of public importance. 7 were journalists and 9 were human rights defenders.

The Brazilian authorities often say these killings are the result of random acts of violence. Our report refutes this claim and reveals that in nearly two thirds of cases, people were murdered because they had spoken out. We investigated 82 cases where media workers and human rights defenders were the victims of violence; in 64% of those, people were, more likely than not, killed for something they said.

Worse still, state officials are directly implicated in carrying out the violent attacks in one in five cases.

Mexico:

A disturbing increase in violence against journalists (over 20%) was played out against attempts by the Mexican Government to offer greater protection to journalists. A law was passed in 2012 making killing a journalist a federal crime, and requiring that all cases are investigated by the attorney general. This system is not working.

 The authorities in Mexico have persistently blamed violence on organised crime in the country. Our research shows, however, that agents of the state are responsible for a staggering level of violence (44% of cases). Organised criminal gangs were responsible for violence in 14% of cases.

ARTICLE 19 notes that information flows are severely damaged in some regions as a result of violence against journalists, creating ‘information black holes’ across the country.

ARTICLE 19 says:

  • The President must ensure that the special prosecutor, who is responsible for the investigation of crimes against journalists, is given greater autonomy and the resources necessary to enable them to do their job effectively. In turn, the special prosecutor must be fully accountable and transparent. 

Brazil:

The government frequently fails to recognise that attacks are motivated by a desire to censor people.

The Brazilian authorities claim that these killings are the result of random acts of violence. Our report rubbishes that claim and shows that in two thirds of cases, journalists and human rights defenders have been murdered because of something they said.

As an emerging global power, Brazil has a responsibility to stand by its international obligations to protect freedom of expression. Brazil must take leadership on this crucial human rights issue.

ARTICLE 19 says:

  • Corruption at the local level is a block to addressing crimes against freedom of expression. The government must reform Act number 10.446 (2002) to ensure the federal police can take control of investigations and the federal prosecutor can prosecute these cases at the national level.

The big picture:

Violence against journalists and human rights defenders is temperature gauge for freedom of expression in a society.

The role of journalists and human rights workers requires them to speak openly about things that others may not wish people to hear. When a journalist or a human rights worker is killed, attacked or threatened a whole society suffers. Attacking free expression shuts down the free flow of information. When a society can’t speak about issues, it can’t address the problems it faces.

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right - everyone has the right to speak freely. This is not just about journalists and human rights defenders. They have voices that speak out over the crowd. Whenever they are silenced, what hope is there for everyone else?” said Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

“The situation in Mexico and Brazil is of great concern and needs immediate attention,” she added.

Mexico Facts Sheet:

Violence against journalists and media workers – linked to something that they said - increased by more than 20% in 2012 compared with 2011.

  • 7 journalists were murdered for something that they said.
  • 2 journalists were abducted and remain missing because of their work.
  • 8 buildings housing media organisations were attacked using firearms or explosives because of something that was published or broadcast.

207 cases or violence against journalists were recorded in 25 of the 32 states of the Federation.

Type of violence

Number of cases

Percentage

Murder

7

3.38

Disappearances

2

0.96

Kidnapping

11

5.31

Physical attacks

98

47.34

Illegal detention by the state

9

4.35

Forced displacement

14

6.76

Direct threats against the person

28

13.53

Intimidation and indirect threats

31

14.97

Other

7

3.38

Total

207

100

Who suffered violence?

Reporters and visual journalists were most vulnerable to being attacked.

Seven out of ten attacks in the country were directed against these two groups.

Victim

Percentage

Print journalists

44

Broadcast journalists

28

Media proprietors

7.2

Editors

1.4

Radio and TV Presenters

1.9

Columnists

3.3

Organisations (property)

13

Who is responsible?

Almost half of attacks (44%) involved an agent of the state (of this figure, local police accounted for 45%, regional police 42% and federal police 12%).

The Mexican state says that organised criminal gangs are the single biggest threat to the safety of journalists, and highlights reporting of drug trafficking as a key issue in this.

However, our research shows that state officials were implicated in three times as many cases as organised crime, which accounted for 14% of violence against journalists.

Aggressor

Percentage

Agents of the state

46

Organised crime

14

Private individuals

14

Political groups

5

Social groups

6

Unknown

15

BRAZIL FACTS SHEET:

A journalist or human rights defender is murdered every 4 weeks in Brazil because of something they said. For every murder there are 3 more cases where a journalist or human rights defender has faced a serious attempt against or threat to their life.

16 journalists and human rights defenders were killed for speaking out in 2012. 7 of those were journalists and 9 were human rights defenders.

We investigated 82 in which media workers and human rights defenders were the victims of violence. In almost two thirds of cases (52 cases or 64%) people were killed for something they said or did.

Type of violence

Number of cases

Percentage

Murder

16

30

Attempted murder

7

15

Kidnapping

2

4

Death threats

27

51

Total

52

100

84% of all death threats (27 cases) were related to something a person had said or done.

Women account for just under a fifth of recorded death threats (19%).

21 death threats were made to journalists and 6 to human rights activists.

Who suffered violence?

Twice as many journalists (30 compared with 17 human rights defenders) were victims of the most serious attacks on free expression (classified as murders and attempted murders).

The most serious cases of violence against journalists were directed towards people writing for popular blogs (44%).

Victim

Percentage

Print journalists

25

Broadcast journalists

31

Online journalists

44

Broadcasters were the targets in 31% of the most serious cases of violence. Those working in television were slightly less likely to be a victim of violence than those working in radio (radio represented 17% and television 14%).

Geography of violence:

There were more crimes against free expression in rural areas than in cities.

  • Almost half of all reported violence was in towns with a population of less than 100,000 people.
  • Including cities with populations of up to 500,000 people, this figure rises to 68%.
  • Less than a third of crimes against free expression took place in major cities (32%).
  • Sao Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul and Maranhao were the most violent states.

Motivation for violence:

 In almost three quarters of cases (74%) a specific allegation made against a public body or official or against a private company was the motivation for the violence.

Other motivating factors included expressing a critical opinion (17%); sharing information (4%); and participating in a demonstration (2%)

An agent of the state was implicated in almost one fifth of all cases of violence (18%).