Latin America

Killing of Rubén Espinosa leaves Mexican journalists in fear

Reporters want inquiry into possible political involvement in photojournalist’s death

A demonstration held in Mexico City to protest the death of journalist Rubén Espinosa.
A demonstration held in Mexico City to protest the death of journalist Rubén Espinosa.SAÚL RUIZ

For Mexico’s journalists, their country may have just reached rock bottom.

Friday’s shocking murder of a 31-year-old photojournalist in his Mexico City apartment has left many of his colleagues in disbelief as to why the Mexican government has not provided protection for the press, even though there are laws on the books covering such situations.

Rubén Espinosa was allegedly tortured before being killed by a shot to the head by unknown gunmen who entered his apartment. Four women were also tied up and raped in the attack before being shot dead, according to investigators.

Rubén Espinosa was allegedly tortured before being killed by a shot to the head by unknown gunmen

The suspects then ransacked the apartment and stole a vehicle that belonged to one of the women.

Espinosa – who worked as a freelancer for the news weekly Proceso and the Cuartoscuro news agency, as well as other media outlets in Veracruz – fled to Mexico City after he complained that he was being harassed and intimidated because of his work as a journalist in the Gulf Coast state.

Thousands of people marched on Sunday in Veracruz, Jalisco and Oaxaca states, as well as in Mexico City, to seek justice for Espinosa’s murder.

According to Reporters without Borders, more than 100 journalists have been killed in Mexico since the year 2000. Espinosa was the eighth reporter to have been murdered in the country this year.

“The authorities must react to the growing death toll by giving journalists better protection and by giving the justice system more resources in order to end the impunity for violent crimes against media personnel,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of the organization’s Americas desk.

According to Reporters without Borders, more than 100 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000

Marcela Turati, a member of the activist group Periodistas de a Pie, said that Espinosa’s murder demonstrates that there are no limits to what can be done to a journalist.

“The entire journalism field has been terrified by this crime,” she said. “This murder defied everything that he believed would protect him. The fact that he worked for important national media outlets counted for nothing, nor did it do any good for him to come to Mexico City, which was once considered a bubble where the violence from local governments wouldn’t reach.”

Gullermo Osorno, director of the news portal Horizontal.mx, said that Mexico has ample laws to protect journalists, including at the National Human Rights Commission, where there is a section that deals with crimes committed against reporters.

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“But we are living in a paradox,” Osorno said. “The problem lies with the state. Five out of 10 aggressions against journalists are committed by a public servant who is on the payroll of a local government. To this day, no public servant has been punished. Indifference and impunity are creating areas of silence throughout the country.”

Veteran journalist Alejandro Almazán believes Espinosa’s murder was related to his activism against corruption in Veracruz.

Weeks before he was killed, he had denounced Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte and his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) government for violations against press freedoms in the state.

“Javier Duarte should be investigated,” said Almazán. “Everything points to him. And if Miguel Ángel Mancera [Mexico City mayor] believes that robbery or links to organized crimes were the motives then he is validating a regime that kills journalists and activists.”

This murder defied everything he believed would protect him”

Mancera said at a news conference on Monday that “there will be no impunity in this matter.”

“No line of investigation will be ruled out,” the mayor said.

Juan Villoro, another journalist, said that Duarte had tried to introduce a law that made it a crime for those who report violent acts on the social networks. The law was stopped by the Supreme Court.

“Recently, the governor asked journalists to ‘behave themselves.’ In other words, he was already criminalizing his possible victims. Veracruz has been a PRI stronghold, and until this party is voted out of office, journalism is at risk,” said Villoro.

 English version by Martin Delfín.

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