Human Rights Commission Report Criticizes Government for Failure to Protect Mexican Journalists

Article excerpt

Despite promises by the Mexican Congress and the executive branch to protect the news media against violence by organized crime, journalists remain extremely vulnerable because of the government's ineffective efforts to prosecute perpetrators. In June, the semi-independent Comision Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH) reported that journalists have suffered 126 attacks since 2000, and prosecutions have occurred in only 24 of those cases. Only two of the prosecutions resulted in convictions.

The CNDH said a large majority of the attacks, about 82, resulted in the murder of a reporter, editor, columnist, or photographer. But the number of deaths could be higher, since another 16 journalists have disappeared without a trace. During the 12-year period, 28 attacks on news-media outlets have also been documented.

"The CNDH believes it is extremely important to eradicate impunity, especially since we now have a mechanism to protect human rights defenders and journalists," the commission said in reference to a law approved in 2011 (SourceMex, May 25, 2011).

The commission said investigations into attacks on journalists are often shallow and incomplete.

"Impunity prevails in large measure because authorities in charge of investigations do not perform the necessary tasks to collect proof and determine all the facts," said the CNDH.

Several journalists disappeared or murdered in 2012

The commission's report was released shortly after the disappearance of photographer Miguel Morales Estrada, who was employed by El Diario de Poza Rica and who did freelance work for Diario Tribuna Papanteca and, all in Veracruz state.

Morales is the third journalist to disappear this year. Photographers Federico Manuel Garcia Contreras, employed of the daily newspaper El Punto Critico in San Luis Potosi, and Nuevo Laredo freelancer journalist Zane Alejandro Plemmons Rosales both disappeared in May of this year while on assignment.

Several other journalists have been killed this year, many in Veracruz state. The first confirmed murder of a journalist occurred in January with the murder of Raul Regulo Garza Quirino, a reporter for the daily newspaper La Ultima Palabra, in the community of Cadereyta near Monterrey (SourceMex, Feb. 1, 2012).

Television and multimedia specialist Marco Antonio Avila Garcia of El Regional de Sonora-Diario de Sonora de la Tarde, Rene Orta Salgado, a reporter for El Sol de Cuernavaca in Morelos state, and Regina Martinez, a reporter for the news magazine Proceso were all murdered in May. Martinez's body was found in Xalapa, the capital city of Veracruz state. Two other casualties in Veracruz were photographers Gabriel Huge and Guillermo Luna Varela, whose bodies were found in plastic bags beside a canal in Boca del Rio, a suburb of the port city of Veracruz. They both worked for the online news agency Veracruz News.

In June, Victor Baez, a crime reporter for the daily newspaper Milenio, was kidnapped and murdered in Xalapa.

Newspaper buildings attacked in Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey

The attacks against journalists are carried out by criminal organizations, primarily drug cartels, which want to intimidate members of the media to reduce coverage. More than two-dozen attacks against media outlets have been reported since 2012, including several incidents in the first half of this year. The assaults have succeeded in their intended purpose, which is to reduce coverage of the drug trade. Some media outlets have chosen to protect their editorial staff and other employees rather than risk further violence.

The daily newspaper El Manana, which had provided comprehensive coverage of drug-related violence in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, announced earlier this year that it was scaling back on reports about "violent disputes." This decision came shortly after a group of assailants attacked the newspaper building with guns and grenades for a second time this year. …