Mexico, Colombia and Brazil among countries with highest rates of impunity for journalist murders

Mexico, Colombia and Brazil are among the top 14 countries in the world where the murderers of journalists are not punished in court.

The three countries were the only in Latin America to make the 2018 Global Impunity Index created by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Each year, the organization ranks all countries where journalists have been murdered with complete impunity.

“In the past decade, at least 324 journalists have been silenced through murder worldwide and in 85 percent of these cases no perpetrators have been convicted,” according to CPJ. “It is an emboldening message to those who seek to censor and control the media through violence.”

The organization added that 82 percent of the cases occurred in the 14 countries that make up the index.

Colombia, which fell off the Global Impunity Index in 2015, reappears on the list this year due to the April murders of an Ecuadoran news crew from newspaper El Comercio who were killed in the country.

Mexico ranks 7th, Colombia is 8th and Brazil is 10th on the index.

The situation in Mexico, which has been on the list for 11 years, has worsened, according to CPJ. The country has 26 unsolved cases.

Robert Mahoney, CPJ deputy executive director, wrote that consequences of impunity are “easy to spot in a country like Mexico, where cartel crime goes unreported in huge swaths of the country.”

“Brave reporters who have refused to be cowed have paid with their lives, and cartel-linked killing have had the intended effect of silencing others,” he said. “In fact, most Mexican journalists can instinctively identify ‘zones of silence’ where democracy and transparency perish.”

He added that CPJ worked with others in the country to get attacks on journalists treated as federal offenses. However, he pointed out that a lack of funding for the Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE, for its initials in Spanish) threatens gains.

Colombia has five unsolved cases and has been on the list for eight years.

Most recently, two journalists and their driver were abducted on the Colombian-Ecuadoran border at the end of March by a dissident group of the FARC. On April 13, Ecuadoran President Lenín Moreno confirmed that Javier Ortega, Paúl Rivas and Efraín Segarra were murdered.

El Comercio, the newspaper where they worked, wrote on Oct. 13 that while the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office identified the alleged main actors implicated in the abductions and murders, “in Ecuador, the Prosecutor’s Office conducts the case in a reserved manner.”

Though Brazil reappears on the list, the situation has improved, according to CPJ’s report. Yet, there are still 17 unsolved cases in the country.

The most recent is the murder of radio journalist Jefferson Pureza Lopes, who was killed on Jan. 17 in Edealina. Six people have been detained in the case, as previously told to the Knight Center by Angelina Nunes, coordinator of the Tim Lopes Program who has investigated the case.

To build the Global Impunity Index, which marks the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on Nov. 2, CPJ calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders over a 10-year period as a percentage of the country population. Countries are only included if they were home to five or more unsolved cases between Sept. 1, 2008 and Aug. 31, 2018. Additionally, cases are included only if it was a “deliberate attack against a specific journalist in relation to the victim’s work.”