Mexico: UNESCO Director-General condemns attack against two journalists
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, condemned the attack that killed Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco and seriously injured Carlos Manuel Sanchez Colunga. The two photographers for the daily El Diario were fired on by unidentified gunmen on 16 September in Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua (Mexico).
"I condemn the attack that caused the death of Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco and seriously injured Carlos Manuel Sanchez Colunga," said the Director-General. "Journalists and media professionals have already paid too high a price in this region. The open letter calling for an end to the violence published on the front page of El Diario, the newspaper for which these two photographers worked, illustrates the extent of the problem. It is vital that journalists be allowed to work safely, without fearing for their lives, so that Mexican society may enjoy the basic right of freedom of expression."
Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco, 21, had started working for El Diario as an intern in May and was about to be hired. His colleague Carlos Manuel Sanchez Colunga, 18, had been an intern for several weeks and was also going to be hired.
The attack happened on 16 September in the early afternoon outside the Rio Grande shopping mall in Ciudad Juarez, not far from the El Diario offices. Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco was shot to death in his parked car; his colleague was seriously injured. The perpetrators fled. According to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the newspaper had received no threats and the two victims were not involved in investigative reporting. The operation was typical of drug cartel score settling.
Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco was the second El Diario journalist to be murdered in two years, following the death of José Armando Rodríguez Carreón, 40, who was shot dead on 13 November 2008. RSF notes that 68 media workers have been killed since 2008 in Mexico and 11 declared missing since 2003.
As part of its efforts to ensure that journalists are able to work in safety, UNESCO is participating in a research project on the effects of stress on the mental health of Spanish-speaking journalists working in conflict zones. The project, run by the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto (Canada), evaluates psychological damage (post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, depression) incurred; it focuses on Mexico because of the severe risks journalists face in the country. Results will be announced at the end of the year.
UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to "further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations." To realize this the Organization is requested to "collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image..."