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International mission finds "shocking culture of impunity" surrounding violence against journalists

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 19 July 2008 ARTICLE 19 press release about the findings of a joint mission to Mexico undertaken by a number of international press freedom organisations:

Mexico: World Journalists' Report on Press Freedom Warns Of "Shocking Culture of Impunity" and Violence

An international coalition of press freedom organisations reported on 18 August that the last three years have been incredibly dangerous for media working in Mexico. The coalition's report "Press Freedom: Shadow of Impunity and Violence" highlights the range of risks that they face with attacks against journalists continuing to increase at alarming rates.

"Mexico has been one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in recent years where a shocking culture of impunity has led to the number of murders there going up even as the killings of media staff in other Latin American countries go down," said a spokesperson for the coalition. "The Mexican government must make protection of journalists a top priority and modernise the effectiveness of federal and state authorities to investigate these cases and bring the killers to justice."

In the last 8 years, at least 24 journalists and media workers have been killed, 8 have disappeared and dozens have been threatened or attacked in direct reprisal for their work. The majority of these cases continue to be met with impunity, a situation that has led to a general state of self-censorship.

Thirteen international press freedom and freedom of expression organisations formed an international coalition which undertook a mission to Mexico, from 20 to 25 April 2008 to analyse the situation of journalists and media outlets in the country in order to work together with Mexican organisations to improve the conditions faced by journalists and the media at large.

The International Coalition's mission report shows that the main obstacles for the free exercise of journalism in Mexico are: organised crime, which has generated a climate of fear; corruption; impunity; direct attacks by the police and military forces; and the lack of political will on the part of federal and state governments to resolve cases of assaults on journalists and to guarantee their safety.

The report details the pressing need to create and strengthen mechanisms to prevent attacks and to protect the press. The recommended measures include the training of officials whose responsibility it is to combat crime. Much still needs to be done in order to address what the mission identified as one of the most important challenges facing the Mexican government: impunity in cases of killings, "disappearances", and assaults on journalists, which represents one of the most extreme forms of censorship and which intensifies when there is no punishment of those responsible.

Although the findings of the mission are deeply concerning, they lay the foundations for understanding the situation which prevails in Mexico, and make it clear that it will (vs. made it clear that it would) be necessary for the mission to return to the country early in 2009 as part of the mandate which it has developed for future action.

The mission traveled to Mexico City and the states of Oaxaca, Michoacán, Sonora and Guerrero. It met with journalists, editors, media outlet owners, family members of journalists who have disappeared or been assassinated, human rights organisations, local and federal authorities, the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and European Union representatives.

The organisations participating in the mission included Article 19, International Media Support (IMS), the International Press Institute (IPI), the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), the Rory Peck Trust Foundation, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), UNESCO, the International News Safety Institute (INSI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), Open Society Foundation-Network Media Program (OSF)and Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP-Colombia).

For the full text of the International Mission report, see: http://www.i-m-s.dk/files/publications/Mexico%20GB.2008%20FINAL.pdf

ARTICLE 19

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