The general backdrop of disappearances in Mexico has a significant impact on journalists’ ability to exercise the right to freedom of expression. 23 journalists remain missing and so far justice has not been obtained.
ARTICLE 19 has published a report entitled La desaparición y desparición forzada de quienes ejercen la libertad de expresión en México (Disappearance and forced disappearance of people exercising the right to freedom of expression in Mexico), which underscores the shortcomings of the State and the lack of will to deal with these serious human rights violations. In particular, it highlights the case of Moisés Sánchez, a journalist from Veracruz and a victim of forced disappearance who was subsequently murdered. The line of investigation suggests that the municipal authorities may have been involved.
On average, two journalists were disappeared every year between 2003 and 2015. The highest number of cases was recorded in Tamaulipas, with a total of six. The subsequent greatest number of cases appear in Michoacán and Veracruz, with a total of four.
This report documents a pattern in which, in 96% of the journalists disappeared were working on stories related to issues of corruption and security associated with public officials and organised crime prior to their disappearances.
Given the risks that journalists take when covering such news stories, local and federal authorities should take into proper account journalists’ professional activities when investigating crimes against them.
As a group, journalists are particularly vulnerable to forced disappearances. It is alarming that so many people who exercise their freedom of expression go missing in Mexico, but of even greater concern is that most of these cases could be categorised as forced disappearances.
The report also exposes the obstacles that the families of missing journalists come up against. They are consistently shut out of the investigation, without consideration of their rights. Family members end up not getting any detailed information about the cases or the outcome of the investigations.
“Mexico has among the highest number of missing journalists in the world. The continuous disappearances imply a cycle of crime and indicate that justice is far from being guaranteed”, said Darío Ramírez, ARTICLE 19’s Director for Mexico and Central America.
Journalists’ work is crucial to the function of democracy. For the press, the disappearance of journalists is a reprisal for their work, which can lead to self-censorship. The State’s lack of action gives rise to impunity which in turn encourages corruption and the continuation of these attacks. More importantly, the denial of the right to information, clearly in the public interest, violates the right of society to freely disseminate ideas.