Mexico and Brazil among the deadliest countries for journalists in 2016, according to CPJ

Although the number of murders of journalists in the world has dropped from record levels, two Latin American countries are among the deadliest for communicators in 2016, according to the year-end report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Mexico and Brazil occupied the eighth and eleventh positions, respectively. According to the organization,two journalists were murdered in Mexico for reasons confirmed to be “in direct retaliation for their journalistic work,” while Brazil registered a case for the same reason.

[As will be explained later, freedom of expression and press freedom organizations have recorded different numbers of journalists murdered in Latin America this year based on differing criteria. Keep reading for more details.]

Following the global trend, the Latin American region saw a decrease in the selective murders of journalists. In the same report for 2015, CPJ noted that 12 murders of journalists had been recorded in Latin America due to the practice of their profession. Six of those took place in Brazil.

However, CPJ stressed that the reason for this decline at the global level was unclear. In its report, the organization said it could be the combination of several factors, including that the media and journalists decided to take less risks to the point of self-censorship, the increase in global campaigns to combat impunity or the “use of other means to silence critical journalists.”

For the purpose of this report, CPJ includes the cases of journalists in which it is certain that their murders occurred as direct retaliation for their journalistic work. It also includes cases of journalists killed “in combat-related crossfire,” as well as those who die “while carrying out a dangerous assignment.”

Mexico began the year with the murder of Marcos Hernández Bautista in the state of Oaxaca. A correspondent for Noticias, Voz e Imagen, Hernández was shot in the head while trying to get into his car on the night of Jan. 21. According to the editorial director of the organization, Hernández Bautista had expressed fear “because in some publications he had touched on political interests and those interests of chiefs in the region.”

Also in Oaxaca, Elidio Ramos Zárate was killed on June 19, just after he finished covering a protest of teachers for the newspaper El Sur. According to CPJ, unknown people who were moving via motorcycle fatally shot him in the neck.

In Brazil, which has experienced an increase in the number of murders of journalists in recent years, CPJ solely recorded the case of João Miranda do Carmo as a murder which it is certain is tied to his work as a journalist. According to the organization, it is “the lowest figure since 2010.”

On July 24, armed men arrived at the home of do Carmo in Santo Antônio do Descoberto, near Brasilia, and shot him at least seven times after calling him to the door. According to CPJ, do Carmo, director of the site SAD Sem Censura, had previously received threats. On July 27, authorities captured a man accused of involved in the murder.

Although Guatemala was not included in the list, the country deserved a special chapter of the report due to the increase in violence against press workers, in cases in which it has not been possible to determine journalistic work as a cause.

CPJ said it also records homicides in which the motives for death are unclear, “but in which there is a possibility that a journalist may have died in connection with his or her journalistic work.” In these cases, the murders are classified as “pending confirmation.”

The organization includes the murders of 12 additional journalists in Latin America in this last category: Mexico (7), Brasil (2), Guatemala (1), El Salvador (1) and Peru (1). These cases are included in the list at the end of this text.

According to the latest report, 48 journalists were killed in the world for reasons related to their work from Jan. 1 to December 15, 2016. And although the number of selective killings saw a reduction, the organization said that deaths in combat or crossfire increased “to their highest number since 2013 as conflicts in the Middle East dragged on.”

The deadliest countries were Syria, with 14 recorded killings, and Iraq and Yemen with six cases each.

Each freedom of expression or press freedom organization has its own criteria to determine if the murder of a journalist was caused by the exercise of his or her work. For this reason, figures released by different organizations will vary.

For example, Reporters Without Borders (RSF for its acronym in French) recorded the murder of 74 journalists around the world “deliberately” or “while out reporting.”

Although RSF also pointed to a decrease compared to last year’s figure of 101 homicides, for the organization, this is “not encouraging because it is due largely to the fact many journalists have fled countries that became too dangerous.” According to RSF,

“These exoduses have created news and information black holes where impunity reigns.” It also pointed to self-censorship as a reason for decreased crimes.

RSF includes Mexico among the five deadliest countries with nine murdered journalists. The organization called Mexico “Latin America’s deadliest country for the media.” Additionally, it mentioned Mexico as a country at peace that has “nonetheless continued to be a hell for journalists.”

The two organizations agree that Syria is the most dangerous country for journalists, and that the local reporters are the victims.

The list below includes 28 additional murders that CPJ did not include in its homicide record as being confirmed for reasons related to the journalist’s work. Some of them are being investigated by CPJ or have been reported by organizations like RSF. We also included cases published by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas in which the reasons have not yet been determined.



El Salvador

  • Darwin Zelaya (Izalco, Sonsonate): radio host, Sky FM Sonsonate.


  • Víctor Hugo Valdez (Chiquimula, Chiquimula): programming director Chiquimula de la visión.


  • Elmer Cruz (Morazán, Yoro): presenter, Tele Morazán y Max TV 22.




  • Ricardo Durán (Caracas, Distrito Capital): journalist and government press officer


*Journalist Teresa Mioli collaborated on this report

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.