MEXICO CITY — The Mexican Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday named a new head of its division for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression, a post tasked with investigating the killings of journalists in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for media professionals.
A statement from the Attorney General’s office announced that Ricardo Sanchez Perez del Pozo will lead the division known as Feadle for its initials in Spanish. He replaces Ricardo Najera.
The statement said Sanchez is a lawyer with graduate studies in international law and human rights from Northwestern University in Illinois who previously held positions related to human rights in Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office and Interior Department.
“He will review each case currently under investigation, maintain permanent contact with all organizations of civil society and journalists, propitiating a permanent and transparent dialogue with society and reinforce coordination with authorities from the three levels of government,” the statement said.
The announcement comes a week after a delegation by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists met in Mexico City with President Enrique Pena Nieto and top government officials.
During the encounter the CPJ voiced concern about what it called prosecutors’ “poor record” on investigating crimes against journalists, most of which go unpunished.
“In response, Attorney General Raul Cervantes Andrade, who also attended the meeting, said authorities were ‘looking to replace’ … Najera ‘with someone experienced who will have the support and recognition of (freedom of expression) organizations,'” the CPJ said in a statement May 4.
However the government had not made any public comment about replacing Najera until Wednesday’s announcement.
According to the CPJ, at least 40 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 1992 for motives confirmed as directly related to their work and another 50 have been slain under circumstances that have not been clarified.
That includes a wave of killings of at least five journalists this spring including La Jornada correspondent Miroslava Breach, who was shot dead outside her home in the northern city of Chihuahua on March 23. Most recently, radio journalist Filiberto Alverez was murdered last week in the central state of Morelos.
In Mexico, “endemic impunity allows criminal gangs, corrupt officials and (drug) cartels to silence their critics” and leaves journalists across the country vulnerable to attacks and intimidation, the CPJ said in a report on the country released last week.