On the 26 and 27 April 2022, our Co-Founder and leading Human Rights Barrister Almudena Benabeau, in her capacity as Prosecutor, supported by pupil barrister Joanna Frivet, represented pro bono the interests of family members of the murdered journalists in Mexico before the People’s Tribunal on the Murder of Journalists. The two-day hearing organized by the NGOs Free Press Unlimited, Reporters without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Propuesta Civica was held in Mexico City.
In the last two decades, Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. With the start of the Mexican War on Drugs in 2006, the annual number of journalists killed in the country doubled while the total number of murders increased almost threefold. Over 150 journalists are reported to have been murdered in Mexico since 2000. In the first three months of 2022 alone, eight journalists have been murdered. In addition, there are countless other reported and unreported crimes, including crimes targeted at female journalists in particular.
During the two-day hearing in Mexico City, the evidence of a dozen witnesses, including experts, was heard by a distinguished panel of judges on the widespread targeting of journalists reporting on corruption, organized crime and narco-trafficking and the systematic failures of the State of Mexico to protect the journalists, investigate and prosecute these crimes.
Although several institutions in Mexico, both at the state and federal level, are tasked with the protection of journalists and the specialized investigation of murders of journalists, impunity in the cases relating to crimes against journalists persists: in more than 95% of the cases, the killers run free. For crimes against journalists overall, in 2019, the perpetrators remained unpunished in 99% of the cases.
Focusing specifically on the State of Veracruz, which is one of the most dangerous places for journalists, constituting 20% of the murders of journalists in Mexico between 2000 and 2016, our partner Almudena Benabeau, also introduced the evidence of several witnesses testifying specifically about the emblematic case of Miguel Ángel López Velasco (publishing under the pen name “Milo Vela”).
Miguel Ángel López Velasco, a crime reporter and well-known columnist for the newspaper Notiver in Vera Cruz, was brutally murdered with his wife Agustina Solana and their son Misael in their home in 2011. The surviving children of Miguel Ángel López Velasco, among other victims, spoke for the first time about the impact of the triple homicide and the absence of accountability on their lives and on those of other journalists in Vera Cruz, shedding light on the existing climate of intimidation to silence journalists in Mexico.
In her closing speech, Almudena Benabeau highlighted the scale and scope of the state failures, reiterating the importance of protecting freedom of speech and of the press. She pointed out that although every nation goes through moments of crisis, it is important to address these issues in a timely manner for the advancement of the protection of human rights in democratic societies.
The written findings of the Panel of Judges will be communicated publicly in hearings simultaneously in the Hague and in Vera Cruz on the 20 June 2022, the date of the anniversary of the death of Miguel Ángel López Velasco.
Guernica 37 International Chambers remains committed to its work for the protection of journalists worldwide and will be leading the Prosecution at the next sessions of the People’s Tribunal on the Murder of Journalists in the Hague relating to crimes in Sri Lanka and Syria on the 12-13 and the 16-17 May 2022 respectively.
To register for the event, please contact Free Press Unlimited email@example.com
 RSF, December 2021. https://rsf.org/es/noticias/rsf-aboga-por-la-proteccion-de-los-periodistas-y-contra-la-impunidad-en-la-mision-internacional-de  Artículo 19, Protocolo de la Impunidad en Delitos contra Periodistas (2019).  RSF. Veracruz: Los periodistas frente al Estado de miedo. 2017. [Annex M]