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Struggle against silence and impunity in Mexico

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 26 September 2012 - Between September 18-19, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, Agnes Callamard and Global Coordinator for Protection, Ricardo Gonzalez undertook a mission to Ciudad Juárez on the border between Mexico and the USA to meet with ARTICLE 19 partners and assess the situation with regard to freedom of expression and freedom of the media following the partial withdraw of the Federal Police a year ago, and the full withdrawal of the military.

This mission is part of ARTICLE 19's global protection work as well as our determination to assess the effectiveness of our interventions and challenge ourselves to develop and implement programmes of protection that respond to the urgent needs of journalists and human rights defenders.


1. Ciudad Juárez has become notorious because of the public security crisis that erupted five years ago partly due to the confrontation between organised crime groups and criminal gangs. Homicides rocketed between 2007 and 2011; according to the figures provided by the Special Prosecutor Office of Chihuahua, there were 300 in 2007, 1,500 in 2008, and 2,656 in 2009, reaching its peak the following year with a total of 3,000 homicides.

2. The daily rate of violence is no longer continuing and this was acknowledged by almost everyone the ARTICLE 19 delegation met. The overall number of homicides has gone down from the extreme number experienced in 2008-2009 at the height of the war against the drug cartels. According to official figures during the first semester of 2012 a total of 952 homicides took place in the city, which contrasts with the 1,642 in the same period in 2011. For the average inhabitant of Ciudad Juárez, the daily threat of violence, including killing, has clearly decreased. There is no doubt that this represents a major breakthrough which cannot be underestimated.

3. Many contacts recognised that the level of general risk and threats has gone down and that they are working in somewhat better conditions. However, they still perceive and experience an intrinsic risk because of their work as journalists and human rights defenders. They also highlighted the fact that the underlying deep-rooted social problems have yet to be tackled.

4. Everyone we met for the purpose of this mission highlighted the rapidly increasing risk posed by the behaviour of the municipal police towards journalists and activists: “the police are now the principal threat; they are fighting the journalists.” A few also stated that they felt more at risk now than they did at the height of the drug-related violence because of personal circumstances or a new focus of work (e.g. corruption and abuses by the local police).

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