Paris, 9 April 2014
President François Hollande
55 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris, France
Dear President Hollande,
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), and the World Editors Forum would like to draw your attention to the disturbing situation of freedom of information in Mexico ahead of your official visit to this country from 10 to 11 April.
France plays a leading role internationally, especially in the United Nations, as regards the safety of journalists. We hope that, during your talks with the Mexican president, you will able to raise the crucial issue of the alarming level of impunity for crimes of violence against journalists in his country.
Ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Mexico continues to be one of the western hemisphere's deadliest countries for media personnel. More than 80 journalists have been murdered in connection with their work in the past decade while at least 17 others have gone missing. The vast majority of these cases remain unpunished.
Impunity in Mexico is due in part to collusion between organized crime and officials at all political and administrative levels, which is the result of bribery or infiltration by the cartels.
Judicial investigations are often closed quickly or are paralyzed by cumbersome bureaucratic procedures. Worse still, officials have an annoying tendency to rule out any possibility of a link between a murder and the victim's work as a journalist, often accusing journalists themselves of ties with organized crime.
This has been the case in the deaths of many emblematic journalists such as Régina Martinez, who was strangled at her home on 28 April 2012, a few days after accusing nine police officers of involvement in drug trafficking. Alberto Lopez Bello's murder on 17 July 2013 in Oaxaca state is also thought to be linked to his coverage of organized crime. The body of Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz was found six days after his abduction by an armed group in Veracruz state on 5 February 2014. Many media have announced that they no longer cover drug trafficking for fear of violent reprisals. This climate of self-censorship is prejudicial to media freedom.
Journalists are constantly exposed to intimidation and attacks, often by police. During demonstrations in September and October 2013, Reporters Without Borders registered more than 65 cases of violence against media personnel, including Agence France-Presse reporter Melina Zurita, who was mistreated by police. Adrián López, the managing editor of the newspaper Noroeste, sustained a gunshot injury in an attack by gunmen on the night of 2 April 2014, as he was returning from two days of talks in Mexico City about media freedom.
Those who defend freedom of information are also the targets of this climate of violence. Balbina Flores Martinez, who has been the Reporters Without Borders Mexico correspondent since 2001, received a death threat on 12 March. The home of Darío Ramírez, the NGO Article 19's Mexico and Central America representative, was attacked a few days later.
The Federal Protection Mechanism that was created for human rights defenders and journalists in October 2012 has unfortunately proved ineffective, because of bureaucratic red tape, and is currently experiencing an administrative crisis. During a fact-finding visit to Mexico at the start of this month, Reporters Without Borders' secretary-general Christophe Deloire reiterated the need to reinforce this mechanism in his meetings with government officials, including secretary of the interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong and under-secretary for human rights Lia Limon Garcia.
Reporters Without Borders and WAN-IFRA have made many recommendations for combatting impunity and we hope that you will present the following ones during your meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto's government:
- A complete overhaul of the judicial system in order to combat impunity and provide journalists with real protection. Thorough and impartial investigations must be carried into murders, threats and attacks targeting news providers.
- Increased resources for the Special Federal Prosecutor's Office for Crimes against freedom of expression (Fiscalía Especializada de Atención a Delitos contra la Libertad de Expresión).
- Reinforcement of the Federal Protection Mechanism for human rights defenders and journalists, in order to establish effective protective measures whose application will be obligatory for all authorities, local and federal. The Mechanism must be given a preventive capacity and must be able to intervene as soon as threats are received.
We thank you in advance for the attention you give to these requests.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Editors Forum