(RSF/IFEX) – 8 July 2011 – Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that Ángel Castillo Corona, a journalist based in Ocuilan, in the central state of Mexico, was beaten to death on the highway from Ocuilan to nearby Tiaguistenco on 4 July. His unidentified assailants also killed his 16-year-old son.
The press freedom organization urges the authorities to react to the seemingly endless violence against the media by conducting a thorough debate on how to protect journalists and effectively combat impunity. The organization shares the concern about Mexico’s journalists voiced by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who is currently visiting Mexico.
Castillo was the press officer for the municipality of Ocuilan’s and a columnist for the regional dailies Puntual and Diario de México, writing about regional politics. The exact circumstances of his death are not clear, but according to the police, he and his son were attacked by men in another car while driving on the freeway between Ocuilan and Tiaguistenco. His son died on the spot when the assailants ran him down with their car. Castillo, who was given a severe beating, died after being taken to the nearby Adolfo López Mateo hospital.
Reporters Without Borders offers its condolences to Castillo’s widow, family and colleagues, calls on the police and judicial authorities to carry out a thorough investigation aimed at identifying and punishing those responsible for this shocking double murder, and urges them not to rule out the possibility that it was linked to Castillo’s work as a journalist.
Representative of journalists’ organizations in Toluca and Mexico met yesterday with Mexico state prosecutor general Alfredo Castillo Cervantes, expressing their outrage about Castillo’s murder, which brings the number of journalists killed nationwide since 2000 to 76.
Castillo was the third journalist to be killed in the past month in Mexico. Pablo Ruelas Barraza was killed in the northwestern state of Sonora on 13 June. He worked for the Diario del Yaqui in Huatabampo and El Regional de Sonora in Hermosillo. Miguel Ángel López Velasco, a columnist for the local online daily Notiver, was killed in the east coast city of Veracruz on 20 June.
The frequency of killings of journalists has turned Mexico into the western hemisphere’s deadliest country for the media. With a total of seven murders in 2010 in which the motive was clearly linked to the victim’s work as journalist, last year Mexico was the world’s second deadliest country for the media, after Pakistan.
During a meeting yesterday with representatives of Mexican and international free speech NGOs, including Reporters Without Borders’ Mexico correspondent, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay voiced dismay at the ever-increasing violence against journalists in Mexico and said these crimes could not remain unpunished. Freedom of expression is a priority for her office, she stressed.
Walking to the metro station, I feel the flash of familiarity. The torta and taco stands, the homeless people begging for small coins, the reeking steam rising from vents leading to a subterranean nowhere.
This is home, the impossible megacity. Some find it in New York, some in Los Angeles, for some it is in Europe or East Asia. For some it is Mexico City. Walking here, I could be anywhere. Streets and people and sounds and bad smells. Sidewalk obstacles and sex shops. A new jetliner cruising down to earth on the established pathway overhead.
Megacities do not pretend to be pretty or picturesque, do not pretend to deny that ours is now a planet overrun by humans, and that humans are filthy and destructive creatures but are also prone to romancing one another.
Former PAN senator and presidential candidate Diego Fernández de Cevallos was returned to his family Monday, after being held by unknown kidnappers for seven months.
Querétaro state authorities stayed out of the investigation at the request of Fernández de Cevallos’ family, who had their own negotiator and reportedly paid a ransom of $20 million.
Police also took a “hands-off” role in investigating the kidnapping of Hugo Alberto Wallace Miranda, who was abducted in 2005. But, says his mother, hers was a very different experience.
Isabela Miranda de Wallace, who helped bring Hugo’s kidnappers and killers to justice on her own, told Mexico Weekly that even if she had wanted government help, “in my case, the government didn’t do
“And there are many more cases like mine,” she said.
The human rights honoree and anti-kidnapping activist had a novel
strategy, putting up billboards with the images of the alleged
kidnappers of her son. Through the billboards and her own
investigation, she has been able to send no fewer than 11 members of
the kidnapping band to jail.
On Nov. 23, Miranda was awarded the 2010 National Human Rights Prize.
Called a “tireless social fighter” by the National Human Rights
Commission, Miranda de Wallace now heads the organization Alto al
Secuestro (Stop Kidnapping), which advises families of how to act when
confronted with the nightmarish scenario of a loved one’s abduction.
She advised looking for a government investigator so that they know
what their options are within the law. “No private investigators –
they are often charlatans,” she said. “Don’t do it.”
Another problem, she said, is when people pay the ransom without
bringing in a professional negotiator. “Without this, you can make
mistakes,” said Miranda de Wallace. “You need to have proof of life,
She explained Mexico’s ongoing wave of kidnappings — 8,000 in the
first ten months of this year, according to Multisistemas de Seguridad
Industrial — by saying the country lacks strong institutions like
trustworthy police forces. In fact, she added, police sometimes are
involved in the kidnappings. “In Mexico [the authorities] don’t know
how to investigate,” said Miranda de Wallace. “We live what we live.
‘No pasa nada.’”
“The deeper root is the social problem we are living in this country,”
she said. “People have no opportunities, no employment, no school.”
In order for the government to improve, she advised, “Each state has
to have well established anti-kidnapping units, as is mandated by the
If this happens, she said, “little by little,” the kidnappings will cease.
Miranda de Wallace collaborated on the bill “Preventing and Punishing
Kidnapping Crimes” that was signed into law in November. The bill
created a fund for victims and mandated prison sentences of up to 70
years for kidnappers who kill their victims.
Leaders discuss impunity, mechanisms of protection in Human Rights Day forum
Mexico Weekly / Dec. 13, 2010
By KAREN HOFFMANN
To honor the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, the Senate invited panelists to discuss how the state can better protect human rights defenders and journalists.
Isabel Miranda de Wallace, who recently received the 2010 Mexican National Human Rights Prize, said she regretted that in Mexico there are daily abuses against fundamental rights “to the point that we have gotten used to living with it.”
“The reality is frankly scandalous,” said Alberto Herrera, executive director of Amnesty International México. “It worries me that, after three years of forums and dialogues, little has changed. The problem is not the lack of dialogue or initiative. We need concrete steps that let us give human rights defenders a mechanism of protection.”
REFORMING MILITARY CODE OF JUSTICE
The Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) has given Mexico a deadline of December 2010 to reform the Military Code of Justice so that “the military jurisdiction cannot operate [in] situations that violate the human rights of civilians.”
On Oct. 18, President Felipe Calderón had proposed a reform to the code that would allow torture, rape, and forced disappearance to be tried by civilian, instead of military, authorities.
However, human rights organizations and senators have criticized the reform as not complying with the IACHR mandate. The reason: Of all the “serious abuses” committed during the Calderón administration, only five percent fell into the categories of torture, rape, and forced disappearance, according to Human Rights Watch. The remaining 95 percent included extrajudicial exectutions, sexual aggression, and cruel and degrading treatment. Under Calderon’s proposed reform, these would still be investigated by the Military Public Prosecutor.
And even in the cases of rape, torture, and forced disappearance, the Prosecutor would still be able to downgrade the charges so that they stayed in military courts. According to a report from the Security Sector Reform Resource Centre, the Prosecutor has a history of doing just that:
“In October 2008, soldiers detained four men in Chihuahua. A CNDH investigation into the incident found that the soldiers ‘put them face-down on the ground, covered their eyes, tied them up with rope, inserted a broom handle in their anuses, and then tied them to a tree so that they would confess to participating in criminal acts.’ Rather than charging the soldiers with rape or torture, the military is investigating them for ‘abuse of authority and sexual abuse.’ Both crimes would fall under military rather than civilian jurisdiction despite Calderón’s proposed reform. In November 2009, soldiers detained two brothers from Chihuahua without a warrant. The men’s whereabouts are unknown. The CNDH ruled that soldiers disappeared the men, but the military invested the case as ‘abuse of authority,’ not forced disappearance. Under Calderón’s reform, this case would also stay in military courts.”
MILITARIZATION OF THE STATE
Calderón’s proposed reform also reportedly puts a statute of limitations on forced disappearances. Senator Rosario Ibarra de Piedra (PT), whose son was “disappeared” 35 years ago, argues that the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearances prohibits putting time limits on the investigation of forced disappearances. She reported that the Army is kidnapping people for political purposes and called it unfair that the state violates human rights. “Aqui no pasa nada,” (she quoted Gabriel Garcia Marquez), “everything’s fine. I think the principal problem of human rights is the militarization of the state — a state of war has been declared.”
Standing at a podium in front of a statue of Belisario Dominguez, her voice filled the hall of the Senate anteroom. The 84-year-old said, “We’re not pessimists, but I tell you, we live in a state that talks about rights for some and takes them away for others. Even the IACHR condemns the Mexican state. The military state has to end.
Pointing to a banner with the names and photos of those who had been forcefully disappeared since 1969, she said, “Here are all the ones we’ve lost — brother, husband, my son. But we are not tired of fighting.”
PROTECTING JOURNALISTS, FREE EXPRESSION
In the panel on “Aggression against journalists and free expression,” Brisa Maya Solis, director of CENCOS, said “We’ve had to push to get this subject on the national agenda. There are ‘silent zones’ — certain types of information aren’t being published. Unfortunately, in 2010, the aggression took on a new level of violence. It became a part of daily life. Corruption, narcotrafficking, human rights violations — these topics couldn’t be covered. How many more deaths do we need to implement a mechanism of protection?”
Edelmiro Franco, a journalist from Colombia who has worked for Notimex for more than two decades, talked about the Colombian example, relevant now as everyone from Hillary Clinton on down talks about the “Colombianization” of Mexico. In Colombia, since 1977, 136 journalists have been killed. Those responsible include the narcotraffickers, the paramilitaries, the guerrillas, and agents of the state, he said.
In his official closing statement, Senator Carlos Navarrete Ruiz, coordinator of the parliamentary group of the PRD in the Senate, said: “It’s clear that regions of our country aren’t secure. Our Armed Forces are not police, and they are not prepared to act as such. They confront arms from the US just as strong, if not stronger, than what the armed forces have. The action of our armed forces is bringing as a consequence a regression in human rights, a regression with grave consequences for the daily life of thousands and thousands of Mexicans.”
Navarrete presented a resolution, signed by many senators, commemorating the International Day of Human Rights and promising to “analyze the existing proposals of adopting laws that protect journalistic work and any individual, group, or organization that is dedicated to promoting and defending human rights.”
"Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten." Cree Indian Prophecy