MEXICO CITY – Public officials accounted for 60 percent of the 330 acts of aggression against journalists and media outlets documented in Mexico last year, press-freedom watchdog Article 19 says in a new report.
The first 12 months of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s six-year term witnessed the largest number of attacks on journalists since 2007, according to the group, which takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaiming the right to freedom of expression.
“That it is the most violent year should frighten, worry us, but above all that it’s the most violent year against the press when he have the most robust system of institutional protection,” Dario Ramirez, Article 19’s director for Mexico and Central America, told a press conference.
The Mexican government has several agencies whose stated mission is protecting journalists and human rights advocates, including the office of the special prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression.
But in its eight years of existence, that office has yet to secure a single conviction, despite an annual budget of more than 30 million pesos ($8.2 million), Ramirez said.
Murders of reporters and “newsrooms filled with fear” reflect a continual deterioration of freedom of expression in Mexico, he said.
The violence leads to self-censorship and there are parts of Mexico where reporters “don’t want to report the news because they are afraid,” Ramirez said.
One of the worst areas is the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, where 10 journalists have been slain since the start of 2011.
Here in Mexico City, Article 19 documented 34 instances of police aggression against journalists in 2013, including arbitrary arrests of reporters covering public protests.
“The government has received the information that the situation is worrisome, it has offered to respond in that regard, but it has done nothing concrete to resolve the situation,” journalist and author Juan Villoro said at the press conference.