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Special Mandates on freedom of expression make landmark visit

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 13 August 2010 - Following rigorous campaigning by ARTICLE 19, two Special Mandates on freedom of expression are currently in Mexico on a joint official visit. Catalina Botero, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression for the Inter American Commission of Human Rights, and Frank la Rue, the UN's Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression, are the first Special Mandates ever to visit Mexico. This unprecedented envoy is a severe indictment of the rapidly deteriorating freedom of expression situation in Mexico, which has witnessed increasing impunity to the violence being perpetrated against its media outlets. In the light of this international attention, ARTICLE 19 calls on the Mexican government to protect media workers throughout the country and ensure freedom of expression can be exercised by journalists.

The visit, petitioned for by ARTICLE 19 alongside a collective of national and international organisations, follows months of delays by Mexico's government in effectively tackling the worsening situation. In spite of numerous statements and assurances, attacks against journalists have continued to increase and impunity has become the standard response.

August has been mired by several violent attacks on the media. At the beginning of the month, four journalists were kidnapped following their exposé of a corrupt penitentiary. Two were later liberated following an intense public outcry and the others rescued by federal police. Last week saw yet another brutal attack against a media outlet and there is no sign of a government response.

"The joint visit of the Special Mandates comes at a crucial time for Mexico" explained Dario Ramirez, Director of the Mexico and Central America Office of ARTICLE 19. "We hope their visit will induce the State to provide the answers that have been constantly denied to victims and their relatives."

ARTICLE 19 recommends that the Special Mandates address the following specific issues, pertaining to the protection of freedom of expression, during their mission:

• Protection: The urgent need to implement a policy to prevent aggressions against journalists, including the creation of a Protection Committee to provide emergency measures in a timely and diligent manner to journalists at risk.

• Impunity: All cases of aggression should be investigated fully; currently the majority of incidents fail to reach a Court of Law.

• Legal Reforms: Pending reforms, requesting all cases of aggressions against journalists are investigated at the federal level, should be passed immediately. In addition the Especial Prosecutor Office responsible for investigating aggressions must be strengthened.

• New Media Law: Crucially, a new media law is needed to effectively promote and protect diversity in all its forms and ensure a pluralism of voices.

• Defamation: A total of 16 local legal frameworks, out of 32, still punish defamation with jail. The full decriminalisation of defamation in Mexico must be made a priority.

ARTICLE 19 hopes that the Special Mandates will engage with these critical issues and that the Mexican government will respond quickly, and effectively, to the deteriorating situation.

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