Mexico: Third journalist killed in a month

On the morning of Thursday 23 March, distinguished journalist Miroslava Breach Velducea was shot dead in Chihuahua as she was leaving her home with one of her children. She was shot several times in the head and died on the way to hospital. Miroslava was the third journalist killed in Mexico this month. A sign left at the crime scene said “tattletale”.

Miroslava has worked as an investigative journalist since the 1980’s and was known for her strong support for democracy and human rights. As a journalist, she had paid particular attention to the issue of forced displacement and land rights issues, which particularly affect indigenous communities in Chihuahua. She had also written on the issue of women’s rights in the region and more recently had focused on the role of local drug and criminal cartels and their connections to the political world. For 15 years she had been a correspondent for national daily La Jornada and was has also worked for the news agency El Norte de Juárez.

Miroslava had been an active participant in the campaign to demand action at state and federal level to protect women human rights defenders and journalists. In a joint statement, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression,  have demanded action by the government of Mexico to address the exceptionally high level of impunity for political killings in Chihuahua. According to the statement, “Only then will journalists and human rights defenders have any reasonable hope of being able to carry out their work without the fear of attack”.

“Miroslava denounced organized crime and also acts of corruption in the state Chihuahua, and that work is now our main line of investigation,” said Chihuahua’s governor, Javier Corral, who first met Breach in the 1990s.

In a televised news conference, he called her “courageous,” praised her “acute criticism” of society and the political class, and said the state would honour her with three days of mourning.

According to the National Commission for Human Rights, Chihuahua is the third most dangerous state in Mexico for journalists. The Attorney General’s office has sent a team of experts to Chihuahua to carry out an investigation. In a statement to Congress, journalist César Ibarra said, “ It wounds me deeply that at any moment a friend and colleague can be killed simply for telling the truth. We are not here with a political agenda but rather as fellow reporters to demand justice for our murdered colleagues”.

Front Line Defenders has condemned the killing of Miroslava Breach Velducea and is calling on both the state and federal governments to take effective action to protect journalists and human rights defenders.