MEXICO CITY – Hundreds of Mexican journalists marched Saturday in this capital and other cities nationwide in defense of freedom of expression and to demand an end to violence, intimidation and harassment.
More than 64 journalists have been killed and 11 more have gone missing since 2000 in Mexico, considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for reporters and one of the nations where those who kill news professionals are least likely to pay for their crimes.
“We don’t want more slain, kidnapped or disappeared colleagues because we don’t want zones of silence in the country. We reject any act of intimidation against freedom of expression because we defend the citizens’ right to (information),” according to a statement to which Efe gained access.
The reporters marched from the Angel of Independence monument to the headquarters of the Interior Secretariat, where a ceremony was held to symbolize the impunity surrounding many crimes against journalists.
The march, held under the banner “For your right to know and my right to inform: No more attacks on journalists,” was a rally in defense of life, Elia Baltazar, one of the organizers, told Efe.
The protesters marched in silence and held up banners with messages such as “No journalists, no information,” as well as photographs of slain comrades.
“It’s a march in which we Mexican journalists renounced the spoken word, because the spoken word is at risk,” Baltazar, who works for the Excelsior daily, added.
The journalists called for an end to attacks by criminal gangs who harass them with “threats via telephone and Internet, or directly” in their offices, warning reporters not to publish a particular story or photo.
The demonstrators demanded that authorities guarantee freedom of expression and the press “for all citizens and journalists.”
They also said “necessary measures” must be adopted in the short-term to guarantee the safety of news professionals, “with full respect for plurality, liberty and the independence of each and every media outlet.”
The organizers recalled that Mexico is “the most dangerous country in the Americas for journalists,” yet, despite that dubious distinction, the Mexican government still has not taken “urgent action” to halt the violence.
“(The government) hasn’t even (worked for the benefit) of media companies, which also are victims of violent attacks on their installations,” the reporters said in their statement, which noted that thus far in 2010 “at least six media outlets have been hit with bullets and grenades,” received bomb threats or been targets of attempted arson.
That figure is double last year’s total and six times higher than 2008.
In statements to Efe, journalist Miguel Angel Granados Chapa said the march was “a first step” to “creating awareness” and ensuring “that if something happens to a journalist, it matters to people.”
In addition to Mexico City, the protests were also held in Xalapa and Acayucan, in Veracruz state; Tijuana, Baja California; Hermosillo, Sonora; Monterrey, Nuevo Leon; Morelia, Michoacan; Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas; Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua; Oaxaca city, Oaxaca; Guanajuato and Leon, Guanajuato; Culiacan, Sinaloa; and Acapulco, Guerrero.
Mexico’s independent National Human Rights Commission late last month pointed to an escalation in violence against journalists.
While the commission puts the number of journalists slain in Mexico since 2000 at 64, the Press Freedom Foundation says that 10 have been killed this year alone and more than 70 over the past decade.
Most of the murders of reporters have been attributed to the conflicts among drug cartels and between the criminals and security forces that are blamed for some 30,000 deaths in Mexico over the past 3 1/2 years.
Four media professionals were abducted in a single episode on July 26, “an event we haven’t had before in the country and (that) gives an idea of an escalation of the violence,” National Human Rights Commission chairman Raul Plascencia said three days later.
The four were grabbed while covering a demonstration by inmates at a prison in the northwestern state of Durango whose warden was arrested the previous day on charges she allowed prisoners out at night to commit more than 30 killings on behalf of a drug cartel, including the July 18 massacre of 17 people at a party in the nearby city of Torreon.
The journalists disappeared in La Laguna, a region that sprawls across parts of Coahuila and Durango.
Televisa correspondent Hector Gordoa was released unharmed on July 29, while Oscar Solis, a reporter with the Durango newspaper El Vespertino, was likewise freed by his captors.
Televisa cameraman Alejandro Hernandez and Milenio Television cameraman Jaime Canales were rescued by Federal Police officers last Saturday in Gomez Palacio, Durango.