The World Association of News Publishers (Wan-Ifra) and the World Editors Forum have expressed outrage at the mounting death toll of journalists in Mexico following the February 10th murder in Oaxaca state of Heber López Vázquez. López Vázquez, director of RCP Noticias online, is the fifth journalist to have been murdered in 2022.
In a letter sent to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the organization highlighted Mexico as the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a journalist. 30 journalists have been murdered since his presidency began in December 2018.
A culture of impunity for those who threaten, attack, and murder journalists continues to undermine efforts to combat the violence.
Despite the introduction in 2012 of the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, the escalation of attacks has continued. So far in 2022, five journalists have been murdered across the country.
In addition to the death of Heber López Vázquez, cameraman and editor Roberto Toledo was murdered in Zitácuaro in the state of Michoacán on 31 January. Lourdes Maldonado, a respected local journalist, was murdered outside her home in the border city of Tijuana on 23 January. Photojournalist Margarito Martínez was killed in an armed attack in Tijuana on 17 January, and on 10 January, José Luis Gamboa Arenas was murdered in the port of Veracruz.
“We condemn this outrageous wave of violence and call on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to take firm, decisive action to end the stain of impunity that is killing our colleagues and decimating the Mexican media landscape,” said Wan-Ifra chief executive officer, Vincent Peyrègne. “It is simply unacceptable for Mexican journalists to be exposed to this level of violence, threat and intimidation and the state must urgently accept its responsibility to protect lives, stand up for media freedom, and prioritise human rights.”
In addition to the tragic loss of life, the ongoing violence has created a deep chilling effect throughout the profession leading journalists and the media outlets they represent to resort to self-censorship as the only effective means of protection.
In the interests of preserving life, such self-imposed silence has profound consequences for democracy. Growing information vacuums are handing narrative control to organised criminals, or corrupt local governments, who regularly undermine the rule of law and neutralise the impact of public interest journalism.
“Mr President, we urge your government to send a strong message in support of journalists and in defence of freedom of expression,” said the letter, signed by Wan-Ifra president Fernando de Yarza, World Editors Forum president Warren Fernandez, and the heads of Wan-Ifra national member associations across Latin America and Spain. “Only through concrete and effective measures that once and for all eradicate the scourge of impunity will this worrying spiral of violence, that has such a detrimental effect on Mexican democracy, end.”