Mexico ranks 143rd in the World Press Freedom Index 2020, with nine journalists killed only in the last one year making it one of the deadliest countries for journalism.
By Trisha Majumder
Mexico is a federal presidential constitutional republic, run by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador . BBC calls it “one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists and media workers.”
Mexican journalists have been treated worse than war zone rivals in the country and freedom of press have always been in question despite the change of powers over the years. President Obrador had pledged to protect the journalists while his election campaign but the reality did not change at all. “The CNDH reports 24 journalists killed since President Obrador took office. In 2019, journalists registered 609 threats, attacks, or other forms of aggression—reportedly the highest year on record.” says, Human Rights Watch, World Report, 2021.
Sixty journalists from 25 international media outlets, including the Guardian, have come together to pursue the stories of their murdered colleagues in Mexico. Here’s what you need to know about The Cartel Project. pic.twitter.com/gs7h2SuiUh
— Guardian US (@GuardianUS) December 3, 2020
Mexico has a range of mainstream media according to political opinions, El Nacional is the official government newspaper while El Proceso is their independent left-wing newspaper, they also have Reforma, El Universal, La Jornada and others. ‘Nota Roja’ (Red News) is a genre of journalism in Mexico which deals with crime, accidents and natural disasters and journalists of this beat are also at higher risk of being murdered. Television or broadcast media is mostly biased towards the government, especially Televisa.
According to a Reporters Without Borders report, “In Mexico it is also common for the owners of broadcasting concessions to be legislators at the same time.” There is a huge parity between the income of the owners and the salary of the journalists along with their cost of life.
The Mexican Constitution of 1917 guarantees freedom of press, Article 7 forbids any prior censorship and the amendment of Article 6 suggests that “the right of information will be guaranteed by the state”. The Press Law of 1917 restricts journalists from breaching privacy of personal matters, morality and public health. Tolerance of the government has been low by the records which shows up in the number of deaths of the journalists over the years.
According to another Article 19 report, “From January to June 2020, ARTICLE 19 registered 406 attacks against journalists and the media. This is a 45% increase on the same period last year when 280 were registered. This means that during the first half of the year, the press was attacked every 11 hours.”
In 2010, a federal Special Prosecutor’s Office was set up to investigate the crimes against journalists. And in 2012, another federal mechanism namely, Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists was set up. But there have been 6 murders of journalists placed in that programme too. In October 2020, President Obrador eliminated all expenses allotted for that mechanism, putting journalists in a larger state of despair.
According to Lexology, “There is no specific regulation regarding new media content; however, the right to information, expression and to receive content through public broadcasting services and pay television services is free, and shall not be subject to any judicial or administrative prosecution or investigation, nor any limitation or prior censorship, and shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of the Mexican Constitution, international treaties and applicable laws.”
An article in Guardian says, “Overall, at least 90% of journalist killings remain unsolved.”
Regina Martínez (1963 – 2012) was a renowned journalist and a part of The Cartel Project was murdered in her own home. It is said that she had information about the collusion of the political leaders and other officials with narcotraffickers in the city of Veracruz.
A Guardian report says, “One man was eventually convicted of Martínez’s murder: Jorge Antonio Hernández Silva, now 34, was a homeless sex worker with a drug habit, who insists he was tortured into making a confession.” This man has been serving jail for 38 years now. The report also mentioned the quote of a defence lawyer Diana Coq Toscanini that said, “He’s the perfect scapegoat.
Many of Martínez’s peers believe Javier Duarte de Ochoa, the former governor of Veracruz was behind her assassination. After the death of Martinez Veracruz became one of the most dangerous cities of Mexico.
Rafael Murúa Manríquez (1985 – 2019), the director of Radiokashana FM, it was a community radio station in Santa Rosalía. After receiving several threats had enrolled himself under Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in 2017.
A Committee To Protect Journalists report says, “On January 27, 2020, the Baja California Sur State Attorney General’s office announced that three suspects in the murder case had been found guilty of carrying out the murder.” The officials also said that, “the convicted killers murdered Murúa over an altercation due to a traffic accident.”
Other sources have claimed that Murúa’s murderers were aware of all his work and this traffic incident might just be a trigger for the murder.
Miroslava Breach (1965 – 2017) was an investigative journalist who was murdered for reporting on an organised crime, drug-trafficking and corruption, her killer even left a note saying, “for being loud-mouth”.
The United Nations and Agence France-Presse had launched an award to commemorate and honour the bravery of the journalists in Mexico, in 2018. Breach and Javier Valdez were given this award both of whom were murdered.