Mexico: PEN condemns the murder of journalist María Elena Ferral

London, 31 March 2020- The murder of journalist María Elena Ferral shows, once again, the lack of protection for journalists and confirms that Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist, said PEN International and PEN San Miguel de Allende today, and urgently call on the Mexican government to investigate the crime in relation to her work.

On 30 March 2020, in Papantla, Veracruz, the journalist María Elena Ferral received at least three bullet wounds, according to the State Commission for the Attention and Protection of Journalists. After the attack, the reporter was admitted to a hospital and she died a few hours later.

María Elena Ferral worked for more than two decades as a correspondent. She wrote for the Diario de Xalapa and the Heraldo de Coatzacoalcos. She also was the Director of the Quinto Poder newspaper and received the National Journalism Award. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Ferral denounced threats against her by Camerino Basilio Picaso Pérez, former Mayor of Coyutla and former local member of the Chamber of Deputies. These threats were reported to the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), and she left a message to a colleague if she was assassinated, asking, among other things, that seven emails be made public.

“The death of the journalist María Elena Ferral symbolizes the lack of protection of freedom of information and expression in Mexico. Every day more women journalists and writers face different and cruel forms of violence, ranging from murder to intimidation or smear campaigns," said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International.

Since 2000, there have been at least 27 murders of journalists in Veracruz, the state with the highest number of murders of journalists in relation to their work. Added to these statistics are the attacks on journalist Mireya Ulloa Valencia, editorial director of the newspaper La Opinión de Poza Rica, who was stabbed outside her home on March 11 2020, in the same state.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), through studies related to attacks against women journalists, says that violence can manifest itself in different ways, from murder, sexual violence (including sexual harassment), intimidation, abuse of power, even threats based on gender.

The PEN International Women's Manifesto said that "PEN believes that violence against women, in all its forms, present both within the walls of a home or in the public sphere, creates dangerous forms of censorship."

PEN International and PEN San Miguel de Allende urgently call to Federal and local authorities to investigate the murder of María Elena Ferral, and demand that the Mexican State protect its journalists with effective measures to break the cycle of impunity related to the attacks on freedom of expression.