NEW YORK—The murder of broadcaster Rafael Murúa Manríquez and the assault on Martín Valtierra García are alarming examples of the escalating dangers members of the press face in the state of Baja California Sur, PEN America said in a statement today.

Rafael Murúa Manríquez, the director of a community radio station in Santa Rosalía, was found dead in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur on January 20, despite being under protection via the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists since June 2017. On November 14, 2018, Murúa posted on Facebook about the ways in which the local government repeatedly threatened him for his critical reporting on the politician Felipe Prado Bautista, the mayor of Mulegé, a town in Baja California Sur. He also wrote that he had received death threats from an official in the municipal government of Mulegé, following his criticism of the mayor. Some progress has been made in the investigation and a suspect was arrested in late January, according to news reports.

Just over a week later, Martín Valtierra García, the editor and founder of a news website which covers news throughout Baja California Sur, was beaten with baseball bats outside his home on January 29. Valtierra had previously accused the Comondù municipal government of nepotism and corruption and has been warned by a colleague that his writing had angered local officials. Valtierra is in the process of being incorporated into a protection scheme provided by the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.

“The death of Rafael Murúa Manríquez and the violent assault on Martín Valtierra García are two tragic examples that show the lengths to which local officials in Mexico will go to silence critical speech and reporting,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “It is imperative that those who care for freedom of expression demand thorough investigation and prosecution of these crimes and continue to work to end impunity in Mexico. Every case that goes unpunished is a signal to journalists that if they refuse to self-censor in the face of these threats, they risk death or other grievous attacks as a result of their work.”

Mexico is the most dangerous country to practice journalism in the Western hemisphere. In 2018 alone, at least four reporters were murdered in retaliation for their journalism, alongside other cases that are still being investigated, according to research by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since 2000, dozens of journalists have been murdered and at least another 15 have disappeared. Few of these crimes have been properly investigated and fewer still have been adequately prosecuted, despite a law federalizing crimes against media workers. PEN America has repeatedly called for an end to this “censorship by bullet” and for restoring the right of all Mexicans to a free and open exchange of information and ideas.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: agasparian@pen.org