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ARTICLE 19 AND CENCOS UNVEIL CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS

Last month, veteran crime reporter José Armando Rodríguez was shot to death at his home in Ciudad Juárez on the Texas border, setting off another round of condemnation from IFEX members about the relentless violence that is stifling critical journalism in Mexico.

According to ARTICLE 19-Mexico and the National Center for Social Communication (CENCOS), Rodríguez is the 13th journalist to be killed in Mexico this year alone. His murder cements Mexico's position as the most dangerous country in the Americas for journalists and media professionals, even surpassing Colombia. And like the other 12 murders of journalists in Mexico this year, impunity prevails: Rodríguez's killers have not been brought to justice.

With the government doing little to protect its journalists, ARTICLE 19-Mexico and CENCOS launched their own campaign last week against the brutal and targeted killing of their colleagues. "Te hace daño no saber" ("What you don't know can hurt you") is the slogan of their nationwide campaign to protect journalists in Mexico and, by default, the "right of society as a whole to be informed."

"Journalists are under fire because of the work they do ... Their presence has become uncomfortable for drug cartels, police and authorities up to the federal level. The campaign seeks to ensure that violence against journalists and impunity become a national outcry, and a national priority against which all actors will take action," said ARTICLE 19, which, with CENCOS, presented the campaign on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The campaign already has the backing of more than a dozen national and international civil society organisations that have already "carried out various actions to make visible the problems in (the) country." They include IFEX members the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

It also boasts the support of high-profile press freedom advocates. Guests at the launch included Lydia Cacho, a Mexican reporter who has been the target of death threats, sabotage, defamation suits and police harassment because of her work uncovering prostitution and child pornography networks, and Rosa Isela Caballero, the wife of journalist José Antonio García Apac. García disappeared two years ago in Michoacán.

In the early stages of the campaign, CENCOS and ARTICLE 19 have unveiled a "Practical Guide on Freedom of Expression in Mexico" - a backgrounder that gives a history of free expression in the country, detailed info on which political and judicial organisations protect free expression, and even an annex of violations this year. They have also released a guide on how to document and monitor attacks on journalists - and methodologies they and others in the industry have used. All of this and more are available on the "What you don't know can hurt you" campaign website: http://www.libertad-expresion.org.mx/materiales.php

ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS said their next step is to replicate the campaign in other countries in the region, such as in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua - where violence against media workers and violation of the public right to know are endemic. Their overall objective is to strengthen local capacities and build a continent-wide protection network.

"It is time for journalist organisations, media owners and directors to assume their role in demanding the level of safety needed to truly exercise press freedom," said ARTICLE 19. "The core demands have to come from within."

Visit these links:
- "What you don't know can hurt you": http://tinyurl.com/5lr9vz
- ARTICLE 19: http://tinyurl.com/584znl
- CENCOS: http://tinyurl.com/5c4wbf
- IFEX Mexico page: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/97/
(10 December 2008)

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