Mexico Must Protect Journalists
The recent murder of a prominent newspaper editor in Tijuana, Mexico underscores the urgent need for the Mexican government to address ongoing threats to journalists, Freedom House said today.
On June 22, an unidentified gunman killed Francisco Ortiz Franco, editor of the weekly newspaper Zeta. The newspaper is renowned for its investigative reporting of government corruption and drug trafficking in the state of Baja California.
"Freedom House joins other international agencies concerned with press freedom in welcoming the decision of President Vicente Fox to allow a federal role in the investigation of the murder of Francisco Ortiz Franco," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. "We urge him to follow through on this promise, bring the killers to justice and send a message that the time of impunity for crimes against journalists in Mexico is over."
Ortiz, murdered in broad daylight and in front of his two children, was not the first journalist from his paper to be murdered. Zeta co-founder Hector Felix Miranda was shot and killed in 1988. A failed assassination attempt in 1997 against co-founder Jesus Blancornelas resulted in the death of Blancornelas's bodyguard. Ortiz's attempts to bring Miranda's killers to justice may have led to his own death.
In March of this year, the government agreed to a request from the Inter American Press Association to open an investigation into the unsolved murder of Miranda, with Ortiz taking an active role in the investigation.
Ortiz's murder highlights the worrisome negative trend in press freedom in the Americas as reported in Freedom House's most recent annual press freedom survey. Of the 35 countries in that region, the number of countries that received a ranking of "Free" has declined from 21 to 17 in the last two years. Mexico currently receives a rating of "Partly Free," due in part to threats against journalists from drug traffickers and organized crime.
"Throughout Latin America we see examples where the dangerous nexus of drug traffickers and corrupt government officials has led to increasing vulnerability of journalists. The Mexican government must do everything in its power to solve and prevent these cases to prove that this type of intimidation cannot successfully deter investigative reporting and freedom of the press," said Ms. Windsor.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.