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MEXICAN GOVERNMENT INEFFECTIVE IN PROTECTING JOURNALISTS, SAY IFEX MEMBERS

Mexico is the second most dangerous country after Iraq for journalists, and the Mexican government is to blame for being grossly ineffective in protecting journalists and the right to freedom of expression, five IFEX members and three other human rights groups told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

The eight groups, including IFEX members the National Center for Social Communication (Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social, CENCOS), ARTICLE 19 - Mexico, Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (Centro de Periodismo y Ética Pública, CEPET), World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), took their protests to an IACHR hearing on the press freedom situation in Mexico on 18 July in Washington, D.C.

State authorities, organised crime groups and, in particular, drug traffickers have made 2006 the worst year on record for Mexico's media, especially because of the impunity they enjoy. "Regrettably, this trend is continuing during Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's administration," the group of eight says. According to RSF, 32 journalists have been murdered and seven have disappeared since 2000. Just recently, on 10 July, the search was called off for two TV Azteca employees who went missing on 10 May in an area particularly exposed to drug trafficking and organised crime.

Although Mexico is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as other international covenants, the authorities lead the list of perpetrators, accounting for 42 percent of 131 acts of aggression committed against journalists in 2006.

So although the federal government created the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos en contra de Periodistas, FEADP) in February 2006, it has so far not solved a single case.

A promise made last December to monitor acts of aggression against journalists and media outlets and post results on a public website and in bi-annual reports has not been fulfilled either, says the group.

"The state's failure to prevent, investigate and punish attacks on journalists is generating a climate of self-censorship among media outlets," the group says, particularly in the northern border states, where drug traffickers' violence has affected journalists more than in other places. On 25 May, the owner of "Cambio" newspaper in Sonora temporarily shut down the newspaper, following two grenade attacks that damaged the paper's facilities, reports CENCOS.

At the IACHR hearing, with the Mexican government present, the group demanded that more resources be given to FEADP, and that the Mexican authorities immediately investigate 11 recent murder cases and disappearances of journalists.

The Mexican government subsequently agreed to take all necessary measures to shed light on violence against journalists, and to report to the IACHR in the next few months on the progress made in the investigations, including accepting an official visit by the IACHR's Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. The government also agreed to accept IACHR support in drafting a new law that would better recognise community and electronic media.

Meanwhile, a hemispheric conference last week in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on "The Judiciary, the Press and Impunity", led by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), noted the deteriorating state of press freedom in Mexico, stressing that violent crimes against journalists constitute a serious violation of the public's right to be informed. The 200 delegates, including 20 justices from the highest courts in the Americas, are urging legal reforms to combat impunity in crimes against journalists.

Visit these links:
- Joint statement issued to IACHR: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/85018/
- Full joint statement (Spanish only): http://cencos.org/es/node/16470
- Joint report on Mexico press freedom by CENCOS and ARTICLE 19: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/85030/
- RSF on IACHR hearing: http://tinyurl.com/2pgebm
- IAPA on legal reforms: http://tinyurl.com/2lh4dy
- IAPA on press freedom violations: http://tinyurl.com/38s7ko
- IFEX alerts on press freedom violations in Mexico: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/97/
(24 July 2007)

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