CPJ calls for investigation into Bradley Will murder

October 26, 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 deeply concerned that one year after the death of journalist Bradley Roland Will nobody has been brought to justice. Further, we are troubled by the absence of a serious murder investigation and the lack of official response to witness reports and photographs from the murder scene that identify several armed men shooting into the crowd where Will was present.

On October 27, 2006, in the capital city of Oaxaca state, Will was shot twice while covering a clash between antigovernment protesters and heavily armed plainclothes men working for the embattled state governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. At the time of the shooting, Will, a 36-year-old independent journalist reporting for New York’s Indymedia, was standing alongside protesters. He was accompanied by at least eight other journalists. Ballistics reports show that the two bullets that hit Will came from the same weapon, from a distance of no more than 16 feet, which corresponds to the distance cited in witness accounts of men shooting as they charged the protesters.

Days after the shooting, authorities detained two men who worked for the state government, CPJ revealed in its April report, “A Killing in Mexico.” However, they were released after a state judge concluded they were not close enough to Will to have shot him. Nobody has been arrested since and none of the other armed men photographed during the shooting have been interrogated.

The lack of progress in the Will case exemplifies the impunity surrounding attacks against the press in Mexico, which has become one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the Americas, CPJ research shows. The Mexican criminal judicial system has proved to be overburdened and dysfunctional. We believe this is a national problem whose resolution requires the engagement of the federal government. If the Mexican government is indeed committed to protecting press freedom, stronger judicial proceedings must be put into place.

The Attorney General’s Office has recently announced a bill that would federalize crimes against the press. This legislation will criminalize any attempt to harm, through violence or other means, the right of Mexicans to free expression, a fundamental right enshrined in your nation’s constitution. We urge you to make the protection of free expression a priority of your administration.

In late March, when Will’s relatives met with then-State Attorney General Lizbeth Caña
in Oaxaca, she told them she had requested that federal authorities also investigate the case. She argued that the apparent use of army-issued weapons during the killing, weapons that appear in several photographs taken during the incident, was a federal crime. Yet a parallel investigation eventually begun by federal officials in Oaxaca into the Will case has since been dropped. The special prosecutor for crimes against the press, Octavio Orellana, told CPJ he continues to oversee the state’s investigation, despite the fact that no results have yet come of it so far.

It is disturbing that officials working for the State Attorney General’s Office, including Caña, have suggested that a protester fired the fatal gunshots point-blank without presenting any evidence to back these claims. The unwillingness of state authorities to push for a serious investigation combined with the limited powers of the special federal prosecutor’s office to pursue crimes against the press, have resulted in a slipshod investigation.

We respectfully request that you use the power of your office to set up a rigorous investigation that seriously examines witness accounts, forensic evidence, as well as photographs from the day of the shooting. The failure of the Mexican government to achieve justice in this case sends a disquieting message to journalists throughout Mexico who feel vulnerable and at times helpless in the face of the unrelenting record of impunity.

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


Joel Simon
Executive Director