Mexican online journalist massacred, 1st under new administration
IPI and WAN-IFRA call for federal government’s commitment to journalist safety to be put into action
By: Scott Griffen, Press Freedom Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean
VIENNA, March 6, 2013 – The International Press Institute (IPI) and the World Association of Newspapers and Newspaper Publishers (WAN-IFRA) today called for an immediate investigation into the killing of Mexican journalist Jaime Guadalupe González Domínguez in the northern state of Chihuahua on Sunday.
According to reports, González, the editor of the news site ojinaganews.com.mx, was intercepted by a group of unidentified men while returning to the site’s offices in Ojinaga, a small town along the Mexico-U.S. border. He was reportedly shot at least 18 times with a high-powered rifle before the assailants stole his camera and fled.
A statement was later uploaded to ojinaganews.com.mx reading, “With this news, this article may very well be the last published by this media; this attack against journalism is truly a shame.” At the time of this writing, the website appeared to be no longer operational.
González is the first journalist to be killed in Mexico under the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office on Dec. 1, 2012. According to IPI’s Death Watch, 56 journalists have lost their lives in Mexico as a result of their profession since 2006.
A joint IPI/WAN-IFRA delegation visited Mexico on a press-freedom mission last month. Journalist safety was the core concern of the trip, which examined new measures put in place by the Mexican government designed to protect the country’s besieged media.
“IPI offers its sincerest condolences to the family and colleagues of Jaime Guadalupe González Domínguez. I am especially disheartened to hear that an online media outlet has been silenced,” said IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. “During our visit to Mexico last month, we received repeated assurances that the Peña Nieto administration takes journalist safety very seriously. We expect to see that commitment put into action.”
CEO of WAN-IFRA, Vincent Peyrègne, said on the eve of his trip to Mexico to meet with representatives of the publishing industry, "In an address to the Institutional Revolutionary Party on the same day that Mr Domínguez was brutally murdered, President Peña Nieto said that his election brought historic change to Mexico, but as we have seen, the history of journalists being killed with impunity is repeating".
Bethel McKenzie added: “This killing should remind Mexican authorities that the failure to bring perpetrators to justice and to speak openly about zero tolerance for such actions will fuel new violence. Congress must urgently pass long-overdue secondary legislation that would put into practice a constitutional amendment enacted last June giving the federal government the power to investigate crimes against the press. Federal prosecutors must be given the authority and resources to do the job that Mexican states have been unable or unwilling to do.”
Miriam Cárdenas Cantú, president of the Human Rights Committee of the federal Chamber of Deputies, told IPI and WAN-IFRA that this secondary legislation was of a “high priority” and that she hoped it would be approved by June.
In a meeting with the joint delegation, the Chihuahuan government’s official representative in Mexico City, Arturo Proal de la Isla, said that while violence in the state was down, impunity remained “our most serious problem.” According to IPI’s Death Watch, seven journalists have been killed in Chihuahua since 2006; all of these crimes remain unsolved.
In a recent report, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime identified Chihuahua as exhibiting some of the country’s “best practices” for protecting journalists, noting a growth in cooperation between media practitioners and the state government, which resulted in the creation of a journalist protection program in 2010.
Despite these apparent positive steps, displaced Chihuahuan journalists in Mexico City, speaking with IPI, said that a combination of organised crime and corrupt local law enforcement was spurring continued attacks against the press as well as rising levels of self-censorship.