Reports

August 29, 2018

Mexico’s tragic record on missing journalists

Yuri Cortéz
On International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances (30 August), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores the fact that no fewer that 21 journalists have gone permanently missing in the past 15 years in Mexico, more than in any other country in the western hemisphere.

The Mexican states that have seen the most disappearances – Michoacán, Veracruz, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Tamaulipas and Guerrero – are the ones suffer most from organized crime an corruption and where the most journalists are also murdered. An “enforced disappearance” is one in which the state is directly or implicitly involved, one in which authorities, or persons or groups acting with the consent of authorities, abduct and hold someone who is a source of annoyance.


A crime that can take many forms, one that is carried out quietly and with impunity by more and more regimes around the world, enforced disappearance has been recognized as a crime against humanity since 2002.


In Mexico, which is ranked 147th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, the drug cartels are often blamed for disappearances. But the families of victims also often suspect that state agents are involved.


In both kinds of case, the complaints filed by the families produce no results and investigations eventually grind to a halt, including those carried out at the federal level by the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE).


In an attempt to address this problem, the Mexican government created a SpecialProsecutor’s Office for Investigating Crimes of Enforced Disappearance on 16 February 2018. Its stated mission is to “prevent, investigate, punish and eradicate the crimes of enforced disappearance of persons and enforced disappearances committed by individuals.”But this initiative has not been accompanied by any concrete, strategic plan of action.


“Making a journalist disappear is a crime that cannot go unpunished,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “Given the scale of this phenomenon, symbolic measures are not enough. Mexico’s new government must redouble efforts to improve the effectiveness of investigations. This includes ensuring proper coordination between the FEADLE and the new special prosecutor’s office for combatting enforced disappearances.”


RSF also deplores the lack of detailed public information about the progress of investigations or about an overall programme of reparations for the families of the victims, as envisaged in one of the recommendations (Recommendation No. 24) that the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH) published on 8 February.


In a report published in February 2017, entitled “Veracruz: journalists and the state offear,” RSF called on the FEADLE to adopt special procedures for cases of disappearances and to ensure that the families of the victims are kept full informed. But the situation has worsened this year and the FEADLE is now even less likely than before to use its power to take over the investigation into a disappearance that has been initiated at the local level, where state agents are only too often themselves implicated in the disappearance.


List of Mexican journalists who have gone missing in the past 15 years


1: Jesús Mejía Lechuga, Noticiario a Primera Hora (Grupo MS-Noticias), disappeared on 10/07/2003 in the state of Veracruz
2: José Alfredo Jiménez Mota, El Imparcial, disappeared on 02/04/2005 in the state of Sonora
3: Rafael Ortiz Martínez, El Zócalo, disappeared on 08/07/2006 in the state of Coahuila
4: José Antonio García Apac, editor of Ecos de la Cuenca, disappeared on 20/11/2006 in the state of Michoacán
5: Rodolfo Rincón Taracena, Tabasco Hoy, disappeared on 20/01/2007 in the state of Tabasco
6: Gerardo Paredes, TV Azteca Noreste, disappeared on 10/05/2007 in the state of Nuevo León
7: Gamaliel López, TV Azteca Noreste, disappeared on 10/05/2007 in the state of Nuevo León
8: Mauricio Estrada Zamora, La Opinión de Apatzingán, disappeared on 12/02/2008 in the state of Michoacán
9: María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe, El Diario de Zamora, disappeared on 11/11/2009 in the state of Michoacán
10: Miguel Ángel Domínguez Zamora, El Mañana de Reynosa, disappeared on 01/03/2010 in the state of Tamaulipas
11: Ramón Ángeles Zalpa, Cambio de Michoacán, disappeared on 06/04/2010 in the state of Michoacán
12: Evaristo Ortega Zarate, editor of the weekly Espacio, disappeared on 20/04/2010 in the state of Veracruz
13: Marco Antonio López, Novedades, disappeared on 07/06/2011 in the state of Guerrero
14: Manuel Figueroa Fonseca Hernández, El Mañanero de Acayucan, disappeared on 22/09/2011 in the state of Veracruz
15: Federico Manuel García, Punto Crítico, disappeared on 14/05/2012 in the state of San Luis Potosí
16: Zane Plemmons, freelance journalist, disappeared on 21/06/2012 dans in the state of Tamaulipas

17: Miguel Morales Estrada, El Diario de Poza Rica, disappeared on 19/07/2012 in the state of Veracruz
18: Adela Jazmín Alcaráz López, Canal 12- CNL Noticias, disappeared on 26/10/2012 in the state of San Luis Potosí
19: Sergio Landa Rosado, Cardel, disappeared on 22/01/2013 in the state of Veracruz
20: Mario Alberto Crespo Ayón, UNO TV, disappeared on 07/12/2014 in the state of Sinaloa
21: Agustín Silva Vázquez, El Sol de Itsmo, disappeared on 21/01/2018 in the state of Oaxaca