WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
13 Feb 2014 | Commentary | News

Mexico: One of the Most Dangerous Places to Practice Journalism

Mexico continues to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. This week another journalist was murdered in the state of Veracruz, marking the tenth murder of a journalist in this state since the current governor, Javier Duarte, took office in December 2010. The international organization Article 19 registered 225 attacks against journalists in Mexico between January and September of 2013, and the state of Veracruz topped the list with 31 registered cases.

The situation in Veracruz is particularly disturbing because of the high number of attacks against journalists and the resistance of local authorities to consider the profession itself as a reason for the killings. Too often the local authorities sidestep the question of whether journalists are murdered because they were investigating a story.

The most recent victim, Gregorio Jimenez, who reported on crime issues for Notisur and Liberal del Sur, was found dead on February 10, 2014 just days after being violently abducted from his home in southern Veracruz by five armed men. Even though Jimenez was actively involved in investigating criminal organizations in the area, local authorities told reporters that the motive of the murder was a fight between “neighbors” and the result of a “personal vendetta.”

At the beginning of his administration, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto took important steps to institute the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, a body that was the result of years of efforts by defenders and journalists to secure greater government protection for them in their work.  A little over a year after its creation, the Mechanism has finally received federal funding and it has made progress in consolidating its staff. However, it has received little support from high-level officials in the Peña Nieto administration and the state governments. Defenders and journalists who request protection have at times waited months to receive a response. For Vicente Moreno Domínguez, a human rights defender from the State of Mexico, this delay meant that he had no protection measures in place when three individuals attacked and seriously wounded him with a knife in his home.  He had submitted the request for protection two months prior to the attack.

In spite of the attention given to the issue of protection of journalists under threat, the murder of Gregorio Jimenez shows that crimes against journalists continue. The most effective way to prevent future attacks against journalists and human rights defenders in Mexico is by carrying out effective investigations into the crimes and to sanction those responsible.  At the same time, the Mexican government should to take the steps necessary to fully implement the Protection Mechanism and ensure that that all of the government bodies involved, particularly at the state level, fully abide by the measures it grants.

Too many journalists have risked their lives to shed light on the wave of violence, corruption, and organized criminal activity in Mexico. The Mexican government needs to live up to its commitment to freedom of expression and take firm steps to guarantee the safety of these brave individuals.