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Fourth journalist murdered this year in Mexico; threats continue

Journalists are reflected on the sunglasses of a woman during a protest against the murder of journalist Miroslava Breach, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, 25 March 2017. The tape reads
Journalists are reflected on the sunglasses of a woman during a protest against the murder of journalist Miroslava Breach, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, 25 March 2017. The tape reads "Not one more"

REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

The following is a translation of an article originally published on articulo19.org on 15 April 2017.

On 14 April 2017 at 11:50 a.m., journalist Maximino Rodríguez Palacios was murdered while parking his car at a mall in La Paz, Baja California, when a group of people arrived in a white pick-up vehicle and shot him. It's worth noting that Maximino was with his wife, who remained unharmed.

The journalist, who also went by Max Rodríguez, served as a reporter for Colectivo Pericú since November 2014, where he covered police activity and high-impact events. He also wrote a column for the same publication entitled Es mi opinión (It's my opinion), in which he addressed issues of politics, government, security, and violence in Baja California Sur.

ARTICLE 19's reports revealed information regarding the threats that Maximino Rodríguez had received. First, in an interview with media outlet CULCO Cultura y Comunicación (CULCO Culture & Communication) published on 6 December 2016, when the reporter responded to a question that was posed to him saying, "Yes, they told me on the phone to 'stop it, not to do it, that it's going to go to shit…' things like that."

Another recent development was referred to in his Es mi opinión column from 11 April of this year, where he discussed a "criminal cell" called "The Colores". In it, he even signals the name of the person spearheading the operation and mentions two recent executions of detectives and state police members. One of the comments in the column from that day came from a person under the name "Pájaro Inquieto" (Restless Bird), saying "be careful, you little fucking corrupt sell-out journalist. They're already killing detectives, state police, the prosecutor. Now all that's left is for them to start killing corrupt journalists that take fucking sides. Watch out, Max."

In an interview with ARTICLE 19, Cuauhtémoc Morgan, director of media outlet Colectivo Pericú, stated that Maximino Rodríguez's murder "is a devastating blow", also mentioning that "this case must attract the attention of the Special Prosecutor [of Crimes committed against Freedom of Expression (Fiscalía Especial de Delitos cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión, FEADLE)] and cannot go unpunished. I demand, as director, that authorities use all of the resources at their disposal to expose what happened to Maximino Rodríguez Palacios; we will not rest until we see justice brought forth according to the legal frameworks in this matter that has caused us, as a media source, so much pain." He also mentioned that the outlet was threatened in November 2016 through a banner placed in its facilities.

In fact, what is particularly serious is that the same "Pájaro Inquieto" user continues to make threats, as noted in an article announcing Max Rodríguez's murder. This threat was made at 7:17 am on the day Rodríguez's murder was reported.

Just a few weeks ago, on 28 March, reporter Julio Omar Gómez was attacked by unknown individuals while leaving his house in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, but was ultimately left unharmed. Nonetheless, one of the guards assigned to him by the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, was killed.

Maximino Rodríguez's murder on 14 April 2017 now brings the count to four journalists killed in Mexico this year alone. Three of them had their lives taken in March: Cecilio Pineda, killed on 2 March in Guerrero; Ricardo Monlui, killed on 19 March in Veracruz; and Miroslava Breach, killed on 23 March in Chihuahua.

It is important to remember that 2016 was the most lethal year for journalism in Mexico, with a total of 426 attacks on journalists and 11 murders. As of the year 2000, a total of 104 journalists have been killed in Mexico. During Enrique Peña Nieto's administration, 31 journalists have had their lives taken.

ARTICLE 19 condemns this grave situation of violence against journalists and demands that all authorities on the federal, state, and municipal level comply fully with their obligations to carry out their public functions and, within the scope of their respective jurisdictions, guarantee the right to freely exercise the act of journalism.

In particular, ARTICLE 19 strongly demands that the Government of Baja California Sur comply with its constitutional and legal obligations to the effect of guaranteeing the full exercise of journalism in said state without any type of obstacle or violence. To do this, it must take urgent measures to prevent and combat the insecurity prevailing in this entity.

Additionally, authorities responsible for securing justice must take into account the context of macro-criminality, from which collusion between authorities and criminal groups tends to rise. By not battling structures of macro-criminality in said entity and by lacking clear and enforceable policies for crime prevention, under a focus of citizen security and with respect to human rights, any effort will be insufficient to confront the levels of violence against Baja California Sur's society in general, let alone journalists in the state.

ARTICLE 19 also urgently calls for the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists of the SEGOB to comply with its obligations to protect the journalism sector, including those who form part of Colectivo Pericú, as well as Maximino Rodríguez's family. Furthermore, they must take the structural measures necessary, together with authorities in Baja California Sur, to analyse and reduce the levels of violence and risk faced by journalists in the state.

Similarly, ARTICLE 19 demands that the Attorney General of Baja California Sur conduct the corresponding investigations in a serious, effective, and impartial manner, in accordance with international standards, favouring the line of investigation related to the journalistic practice of Maximino Rodríguez, with the goal of clarifying the events that transpired.

Finally, ARTICLE 19 demands that the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) exercise its authority to assert jurisdiction with respect to the investigation that the State Attorney's Office has opened, and that it be FEADLE who continues conducting and taking part in the investigations for the murder of Maximino Rodríguez, so that the events do not go unpunished and that those responsible are brought to justice, including material and intellectual perpetrators. The case must not remain unpunished, as enduring impunity becomes an incentive for continuing crimes against journalists.

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