CPJ urges Mexican president to stop attacks against the press after execution of journalist Amado Ramírez Dillanes

April 9, 2007

Felipe Calderón Hinojosa
President of Mexico
Los Pinos
Mexico City, Mexico

Via facsimile: 52- 55 – 52772376

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to express alarm after the execution-style killing of veteran journalist Amado Ramírez Dillanes in Acapulco, in what has become a pattern of deadly attacks against the press that continue at an alarming rate. We are deeply concerned about the state of press freedom in Mexico, and call for swift and decisive federal action to stop this tide of violence.

Ramírez, 50, Acapulco-based correspondent for the broadcast station Televisa and host of the daily news program “Al Tanto” on local Radiorama, was shot to death near the city’s main square on Friday evening. CPJ is investigating whether Ramírez’ murder is directly connected to his professional work.

After concluding his daily news show, Ramírez left Radiorama’s offices at 7:30 p.m. and walked to his car, which was parked close by, said a colleague who asked CPJ not to be identified. Ramírez had just stepped into his car when an unidentified assailant shot at him twice from outside the driver’s window, said his colleague. Wounded in his left leg and chest, the journalist ran into the lobby of a nearby hotel. The attacker followed Ramírez and shot him in the back, wounding him fatally, the local press reported.

Ramírez reported general news for Televisa and “Al Tanto,” said his colleague. In March, however, he aired a special investigation into the murder of local police officers on Televisa, linking the crime to local drug traffickers.

According to Misael Habana de los Santos, Ramírez’ co-host at Radiorama, the journalist had received several death threats on his cellular phone prior to the murder. Habana wrote in the national daily La Jornada that Ramírez had not paid attention to the threats, and refused to inform local police.

Local authorities found three 38.caliber bullet shells at the scene of the crime. According to the Mexican press, authorities drafted a sketch of the assailant based on witnesses’ accounts. State investigators have not speculated on the possible motive of the murder. The federal Attorney General’s office is cooperating with state authorities in the investigation of the crime, said CPJ sources.

As the war between powerful drug cartels has intensified, local journalists who report on organized crime and the drug trade in Mexico are facing grave risks. CPJ research shows that six journalists have been murdered in direct reprisal for their work since 2000, while we are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the slayings of 11 other journalists, including Ramírez, since then to determine if their deaths are work-related. Three journalists have also disappeared since 2005. Two of them were covering crime stories.

Though the battle between the cartels is particularly severe in northern states, violence has spread to almost every Mexican state in the last year. The toll has been devastating: The Attorney General’s office has recorded 678 organized crime-related murders in 2007 alone, according to press reports.

Violence and fear have had a devastating effect on the press, as reporters who cover crime and drug trafficking have increasingly resorted to self-censorship. The wave of violence against the press is curtailing journalists’ ability to report the news. Drug trafficking, crime, corruption, and other issues that affect the daily lives of ordinary people are not being covered.

In early 2006, the Mexican government recognized violence against the press as a national problem by creating a special prosecutor’s office to investigate crimes against the press. Unfortunately, Mexico’s justice system has failed to bring an end to this cycle of violence and appears far from solving any of the recent murders.

As you set priorities during your first year in office, we urge you to make the protection of press freedom and freedom of expression a hallmark of your administration. We believe that through concerted action, your government can help stem the tide of attacks against the press. Although the right to free expression is guaranteed by Articles 6 and 7 of the Mexican Constitution, many journalists are not able to exercise this right for fear of reprisal.

In this climate of ongoing bloodshed, it is critical that all Mexicans are able to seek information and express themselves without fear of reprisal. The unprecedented and unwavering violence against journalists is inhibiting the ability of Mexicans to communicate with each other. We believe that this is a national problem whose resolution requires the engagement of the federal government. The citizens of Mexico require a legal framework that protects freedom of expression. Moreover, the federal government must assume the responsibility of protecting journalists under threat.

We urge you to make the protection of free expression a priority of your administration by supporting legislation to make it a crime to conspire, through violence or other means, to deprive Mexicans of this most fundamental right enshrined in your nation’s constitution.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your response.

Sincerely yours,

Joel Simon
Executive Director