Atilano Román Tirado, community leader and radio programme host, was murdered on Saturday, 11 October while he was on the air presenting his radio programme “Así es mi Tierra” (Such is my land) on FM 98.7 in the building that houses the El Sol de Mazatlán newspaper, in Mazatlán, Sinaloa.
For the last two years, Atilano Román had hosted a weekly programme on the local station of the ABC Radio communications group, in which he denounced the failure of the Sinaloa authorities to honour their promises to the region’s farming communities.
He led the movement of the farming community members affected by the construction of the Picachos dam in Sinaloa, and had fought to defend the civil rights of his community for many years. According to the newspaper Noroeste, this is the movement’s third activist to be murdered in the last five months.
“He had become a thorn in the side for the government”, say people who were familiar with the work of this community leader and radio broadcaster, and who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.
Over a 10-year period, ARTICLE 19 has documented the murders of three journalists from Sinaloa. As of 30 September 2014, there had been nine attacks against the local press, five of which were physical assaults, two were arbitrary arrests, and two acts of intimidation. In seven cases, those responsible were public officials.
“This is a double assault on democracy, not only because it violates the right to life of the victim and affects the psychological integrity of his family and other community members, but also because it deprives the Sinaloa communities of a voice that was not afraid to criticize the authorities”, said Darío Ramírez, director of ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America.
The killing of Atilano Román brings to 80 the number of journalists and communicators murdered in Mexico since 2000. Of this total, eight were murdered during the current administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
ARTICLE 19 deeply regrets the killing of the community leader and radio host Atilano Román Tirado, and asks the Federal Attorney General (PGR) to launch without delay investigations into the murder of Atilano Román, to clarify what really happened and to refer the case to the courts of justice, so that those responsible for this crime are prosecuted and punished. ARTICLE 19 also asks that the victim’s work to report on and defend civil rights is not cast aside.
Meanwhile, ARTICLE 19 asks the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists to provide immediate protection to Atilano Román’s family and to the community members who, together with him, led efforts to defend the rights of the Sinaloa mountain communities.