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Report shows state authorities as obstacle to press freedom in Mexico

A report released by the International Press Institute (IPI) and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) following their February joint press-freedom mission to Mexico states that the new Mexican federal government must work to fully implement recent institutional measures designed to improve journalist safety.

The report also reveals that Mexican state governments have become a major obstacle to defending press freedom in Mexico through their failure to prosecute crimes against journalists and the efforts of some state governments to control information through the harassment and intimidation of journalists.

The principal objective of IPI and WAN-IFRA's three-day visit to Mexico was to evaluate strategies adopted by the federal government to ensure journalist safety in the country: first, a federal protection system for journalists in danger; and second, the federal Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression, recently strengthened by a constitutional amendment granting the federal government the power to investigate crimes against the press.

Such crimes are rarely investigated by local and state authorities.

“As this report makes clear, IPI and WAN-IFRA received strong commitments on the part of the Peña Nieto administration in support of journalist safety and press freedom,” IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said.

“Nevertheless, journalists with whom the delegation met expressed skepticism about the implementation of both the mechanism and the efficacy of the Special Prosecutor's office, and we remain anxious to see concrete results in the fight against impunity for crimes against journalists in Mexico.”

The report underscores that the constitutional changes related to the special prosecutor require the passage of secondary legislation to take practical effect.

Members of the Mexican federal congress told IPI and WAN-IFRA that this legislation was supported by all parties and prioritised for speedy passage.

Specifically, on Feb. 12, the president of the Human Rights Committee in the federal Chamber of Deputies, informed the delegation that the Senate was expected to pass the bill within 15 days and deliver it to the Chamber of Deputies, which could would then pass it by mid-April.

This legislation was approved by the Senate only last week, on April 12th, but has yet to be considered by the Chamber of Deputies.

One the report's key findings is the way in which certain state authorities have become a major obstacle for progress in both ensuring journalist safety and protecting press freedom.

“Our visit to Mexico revealed an abysmal gap between the federal government's apparent will to seriously tackle the issue of journalist safety and, on the other hand, the unwillingness of certain state governments to acknowledge that a threat to freedom of expression even exists, much less do anything significant about it”, said Vincent Peyrègne, CEO of WAN-IFRA. “If the federal government does not tackle the lack of responsibility at the state level, its own efforts will have little or no results”.

Officials from the state of Veracruz, including state communications director Gina Domínguez Colío and government secretary Gerardo Buganza Salmerón, insisted to IPI and WAN-IFRA that “freedom of expression is 100% guaranteed in Veracruz.”

This statement clashed not only with cold hard facts – IPI's Death Watch lists 11 journalists murdered in Veracruz since 2006 – but also with the testimonies of numerous journalists and editors, many of whom indicated that the Veracruz government used a mix of harassment and intimidation of journalists to control the flow of information in the state. Both organisations consider Veracruz as one of the world's most dangerous places to be a journalist.

The report highlights that the frequency of violent attacks against the media in Mexico's states, in many of which the power of organised crime has upended the rule of law, has led a number of journalists to flee to Mexico City and take up “internal exile”.

Journalists told the joint delegation that, for those reporters who choose to stay, self-censorship may be the only viable method of self-protection, further depriving Mexico's people of accurate information about the events taking place in their country.

The Mexico mission delegation included Roger Parkinson, past president of WAN-IFRA, former publisher, CEO and chairman of Canada's Globe & Mail, and IPI member; Larry Kilman, WAN-IFRA deputy CEO; Barbara Trionfi, IPI press freedom manager; Rodrigo Bonilla Hastings, WAN-IFRA press freedom missions manager; and Scott Griffen, IPI press freedom adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Download the full report below:
IPI_WAN-IFRA_Mexico_Final_ENG.pdf (728 KB)

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