Friday, January 22, 2010

MEXICO: Newspaper editor shot dead

MEXICO: Newspaper editor shot dead

5 January 2010

RAN 01/10

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) protests the murder of José Alberto Velázquez López, editor of Expresiones de Tulum, who was shot dead in Cancún, Quintana Roo state, on 22 December 2009. The newspaper had been subject to attack, including death threats, in the previous few months and it is thought that Velázquez' murder may have been connected to his criticism of local authorities. He was the seventh print journalist to be killed in Mexico in 2009 and the 27th since 2004. The WiPC calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate this latest killing, along with all other unsolved journalist murders, as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice. It also calls for the implementation of effective journalist protection programmes.

José Alberto Velázquez López, editor and owner of the daily newspaper Expresiones de Tulum, based in Tulum, Quintana Roo state, and a contributor to a local television station, was shot dead in Cancún on 22 December 2009. Velázquez was driving home after a Christmas party for the newspaper staff when he was followed by two men on a motorbike who shot him in the chest, leaving him with serious wounds. He was taken to hospital but died late that night.

The newspaper staff had reportedly received several anonymous telephone death threats in the previous few months and its printing press was also firebombed in November 2009. Velázquez, who was also a lawyer, had reportedly written a number of articles accusing the mayor of Tulum of corruption, poor administration and a lack of regard for the public but had stopped reporting on local politics after receiving the death threats, which allegedly included a threatening phone call from the mayor. The mayor and Velázquez had reportedly been enemies since April 2009, the month that the newspaper was set up and that the mayor came into office.

State prosecutors in Quintana Roo have opened an inquiry into the murder. They are reportedly looking at two possible motives: Velázquez' work as a lawyer or that it was a crime of passion. However, his colleagues at Expresiones de Tulum have reportedly dismissed these leads, suggesting that the murder is instead likely to have been related to the editor's criticism of the mayor. Police investigations into the November 2009 firebombing of the newspaper premises have yet to yield any results.

Velázquez reportedly leaves behind a heavily pregnant wife and a five-year-old son.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. From January 2004 to December 2009, a total of 27 writers - 26 print journalists and one author - were murdered, seven of them in 2009 alone. Five more print journalists have disappeared in the same period. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. International PEN believes that it is likely that these journalists were targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. While organised crime groups are responsible for many attacks, state agents, especially government officials and the police, are reportedly the main perpetrators of violence against journalists, and complicit in its continuance. For more information, click here.

Useful links

Please send appeals:

  • Protesting the murder of newspaper editor and lawyer José Alberto Velázquez López, in Cancun, Quintana Roo state, on 22 December 2009;
  • Calling for a full, prompt and impartial investigation into Velázquez' death and all other unsolved murders of journalists in Mexico;
  • Given Velázquez' critical reporting on local authorities, it is essential that federal authorities cooperate with their counterparts in Quintana Roo state to ensure that the investigation into his murder is properly carried out;
  • Calling on the government of President Felipe Calderón to fulfil promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offence, specifically by amending the Constitution so that federal authorities have the power to investigate, prosecute and punish such crimes.
  • Calling on the federal authorities to set up protection programmes for journalist to ensure their safety

Appeals to:

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850, DISTRITO FEDERAL, México
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
Salutation: Señor Presidente/ Dear Mr President

Attorney General
Lic. Arturo Chávez Chávez
Procurador General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuauhtémoc
México D.F. C.P. 06500
Tel: + 52 55 5346 0108
Fax: + 52 55 53 46 0908 (if a voice answers, ask "tono de fax, por favor")
Salutation: Señor Procurador General/Dear Attorney General

Please also send copies of your appeals to the Mexican Embassy in your country.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with International PEN if sending appeals after 5 March 2010.***

For further details please contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: International PEN, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email:

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