Three IFEX members urge new investigation into journalist's 2004 murder following new revelations
Negligence and manipulation of evidence: Murder of "El Mañana" director remains unpunished
Mexico, 3 June 2008 - The undersigned members of the In Memoriam Commission have welcomed a report by the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH), denouncing irregularities in the investigation of the murder of Roberto Mora García, former editorial director of "El Mañana" newspaper.
In its report, the CNDH said the investigation was marked by negligence, falsification of evidence and testimony and other irregularities. The In Memoriam Commission, which was launched by Mexican and international press freedom organisations to ensure follow-up of the investigation into the murder, has been denouncing such anomalies since 2004.
Given the information corroborated by the CNDH, there are lingering doubts about the identity of the assassin and the motive for the murder.
The CNDH intervened after an appeal contesting the findings was filed in March 2005, by the Tamaulipas State Human Rights Commission.
Mora García was killed on 19 March 2004. Following pressure and protests by journalists and various organisations, police arrested some of the victim's neighbours, while telling the media that the murder was a crime of passion, although no evidence to support this theory was presented.
The journalist, who was highly regarded in the country's northeastern region, was a strong critic of corruption in the police and in municipal and state governments, and of what he saw as their collusion with drug traffickers. His murder was the first in a series of assassinations and attacks by organised criminals in Tamaulipas and other states, attacks which continue to plague the country to this day.
Mario Medina and Hiram Oliveros, who were romantic partners and Mora García's neighbours, were illegally detained in connection with the killing. The CNDH concluded that Medina was beaten. Both Medina and Oliveros said they were tortured while in detention and denied that they knew the journalist, who had only moved into their building one month before his murder. Medina was accused of being the assassin and was himself killed while in prison, some weeks after his arrest.
The In Memoriam Commission found that the authorities could not account for the presence of the two detained individuals for a number of hours before they appeared before the Public Ministry. There were also irregularities in the autopsy reports, suggesting that Medina and Oliveros may have been innocent.
The CNDH report confirmed that certain omissions, and the actions of the medical experts who carried out the autopsy on Mora García's body, cast doubt on the type of weapon used to kill the journalist and as a result on the motive and the identity of the assassins.
According to the CNDH, on 6 July 2007 the Tamaulipas Human Rights Commission launched an investigation into the role of the officers from the Public Prosecutor's Office. The commission is also examining the actions of one of its staff, who was present when Medina confessed in a police interrogation that he had killed Mora García and who may have been aware that Medina was tortured.
The In Memoriam Commission considers the CNDH findings as a "moral victory" for those who support freedom of expression and fight impunity for crimes against journalists and media outlets. At the same time, the commission laments the fact that the CNDH's report was so belated and protests the irregularities committed by the Tamaulipas State Human Rights Commission, in failing to announce that it had launched a new probe into the anomalies committed during the investigation.
The In Memoriam Commission stresses that criminal investigations must be carried out thoroughly and professionally and that, when the victims are journalists, the possibility that they are targetted because of their work should not readily be ruled out.
The In Memoriam Commission urges the Tamaulipas government, the state Prosecutor's Office and the Tamaulipas Human Rights Commission to reopen the investigation into Mora García's murder and ensure that those government officials who committed human rights violations are sanctioned.
Finally, the commission urges the federal authorities to pay special attention to the case, since irregularities were committed under the jurisdiction of the Tamaulipas State Prosecutor's office.
The In Memoriam Commission stresses that as long as attacks on journalists are not properly investigated and the responsible parties brought to justice, Mexico will continue to face freedom of expression violations.
According to the Freedom of Expression Rapporteur of the Organization of American States, attacks against journalists are attacks on society in general and on people's right to be informed. Subsequent to Mora García's murder and other reprisals against journalists and media outlets in Tamaulipas, journalists in the region often resort to self-censorship.
PROBIDAD, El Salvador
Reporters sans frontières (RSF), France
To read the In Memoriam Commission's report, see (Spanish only):
Updates the Mora García case:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/59005 21 May 2004
Center for Journalism and Public Ethics