Country Focus — Mexico

Mexico

Suyashi Smridhi | Chennai

Mexico deadliest country for journalists, nine killed in 2020

In 2019, Mexico surpassed war-ravaged countries like Syria and Afghanistan to become the deadliest country for journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), nine journalists were killed in the year 2020, with five of them being victims of targeted killings.

Mexico, officially known as the United Mexican States, is located in North America, bordering the southern part of the United States. Elections are held regularly in the country, with the legislature being elected every two years, and the president being elected every six years.

When the current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador was campaigning for the 2018 elections, he had promised to address the issue of journalists’ safety in the country. Three years on, Obrador has taken to throwing invectives during press briefings, held daily in National Palace, Mexico City at 7:00 AM.

Why are journalists being killed in Mexico?

In his 2018 campaign, Obrador had also promised to eliminate all forms of corruption, alleviate people from poverty, erase deeply-entrenched inequalities and reduce the violence that pervades Mexico. His left-leaning party, which promised to upend the prevailing status quo, came to power in a landslide victory in 2018.

Since Obrador’s election victory, however, more journalists are being killed, simply for doing their jobs. Many of the journalists who’ve been attacked, report on the issues of ─ organised crime, corruption, damage caused to the environment, embezzlement of public money, and seizure of indigenous land by multinationals.

Mexico also ranks high on the Global Impunity Index of 2020, an indication that those who murder journalists can get away with it.

In 2012, two Mexican universities, Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla and Universidad de Morelia, shut down their departments/schools of journalism, an indication of the growing dangers of the profession.

Are there safeguards for journalists?

In 2012, the government of Enrique Peña Nieto had set up the  Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, to assure the safety of journalists. It also aimed to ensure that proper investigations took place in the case of a journalist’s murder.

The Protection Mechanism, however, has been subjected to budget cuts in the past, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moreover, critics also question the effectiveness of the protection program. Despite being under state protection, two journalists, Pablo Morrugares and Jorge Miguel Armenta Ávalos, were killed in 2020, along with the police officers protecting them.

These two murders are indicative of the increasing instances of organised crimes in the country, a CPJ investigation revealed. In fact, according to the Organized Crime and Violence Report of 2019, the homicide rate has escalated from 16.9 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015      to 27.3 per 100,000 in 2018.

In places like Zacatecas and Iguala, drug cartels are so dangerous that journalists are forced to practice self-censorship.

Do the media have rights in Mexico?

The country’s constitution does guarantee certain rights to journalists. Article 6 of the constitution guarantees freedom of expression, access to information, and protection of privacy.

Article 7 of the Constitution states, “Freedom of speech, opinion, ideas, and information through any means shall not be abridged.”

Despite these rights, some laws do restrict the freedom of the press. The Press Law, 1917, restricts the national press from reporting on matters of personal privacy, morality, and public health. The 1960 Law on Radio and Television prohibits the broadcast of material considered offensive to national heroes.

Journalists killed in Mexico, 2010-2020

Who violates the Mexican media’s freedom?

Even as drug cartels wreak havoc in the country, those in power cannot be absolved of corruption and being involved in the attacks of journalists.

On the morning of 2017, Miroslava Breach Velducea was shot dead as she waited in her car to take her son to school. Velducea was attempting to unravel the corrupt nexus between drug cartels and politics; she reported that organised crime groups were being nominated as mayoral candidates in Chihuahua.

 

It was only in August 2020 that one of the suspects, Juan Carlos Moreno Ochoa was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his involvement in Velducea’s murder.

In December, Hugo Amed S, former mayor of Chínipas, Chihuahua, was convicted for allegedly passing information about Velducea to Los Salazar. Los Salazar, an organized crime group operating in Chihuahua, is suspected to have executed Velducea’s murder.

 

Also read:

The Cartel Project: Continuing the works of slain Mexican journalists

Mexico: setbacks to freedom of expression in 2020

‘Barbaric murders’: 50 journalists killed in 2020