Mexico City, July 23, 2019 –Mexican authorities must immediately and credibly investigate the burglary of the residence of investigative reporter Lydia Cacho Ribeiro and guarantee her safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On July 21, in Puerto Morelos, in the southern Mexican state of Quintana Roo, unidentified individuals broke into the home of Cacho, an author and freelance reporter, and stole a laptop computer, audio recorder, three cameras, several memory cards, and ten hard drives containing information about sexual abuse cases the reporter was investigating, according to Cacho, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app, and a report by national news website Animal Político. The individuals also killed Cacho’s two dogs and damaged personal belongings, including photographs, according to that report.
Cacho told CPJ that she was speaking with local authorities about the break-in. Ricardo Sánchez Pérez del Pozo, head of the office of the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression, told CPJ via messaging app that his office had opened an investigation into the burglary.
“The blatant and outrageous attack on the home of Lydia Cacho underscores the Mexican state’s continuing inability to protect even its most celebrated reporters,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Time is running out for the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to provide the country’s journalists with a comprehensive plan to protect them and combat impunity in crimes against the press.”
Cacho is one of Mexico’s most well-known invesigative reporters, whose 2005 book Los Demonios de Edén (“The Demons of Eden”), exposed a child sex trafficking ring allegedly involving a number of politicians, government officials, and businessmen.
Following the book’s publication, one man implicated in Cacho’s reporting filed a criminal defamation complaint against her, which was later dropped, as CPJ reported at the time. Cacho was briefly detained in Puebla state in 2005 pursuant to that complaint, and was allegedly abused during detention, according to a report she wrote upon her release.
On January 10, 2019, the Mexican federal government issued an official apology to Cacho for her treatment in the defamation case, according to reports. In April, the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression issued arrest warrants for former Puebla Governor Mario Marín and businessmen José Kamel Nacif Borge, who were allegedly behind the detention and abuse, according to Animal Político.
Since 2009, the Mexican government has provided Cacho with protective measures to guard against threats to her life, according to news reports.
Mexico is the most dangerous country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere. According to CPJ research, at least three journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work in 2019. CPJ is investigating four other killings to determine whether the motive was related to the journalists’ work.
Mexico also leads the world in the number of disappeared reporters, according to CPJ research, with at least 14 missing journalists.