Mexico: Fear in the Newsroom

Mexico: Fear in the Newsroom - Protection

Today, ARTICLE 19 launches its 2015 annual report on violence against journalists in Mexico. The report, entitled M.I.E.D.O. (Media, Impunity, State, Democracy, Opacity), takes its name from the Spanish word for ‘fear’, ‘miedo’. Consistent attacks on the media, impunity for attackers, an unresponsive State, a frail democracy, and unaccountable governmental institutions all threaten freedom of expression. These factors combine to create an environment of constant fear among the press.

A total of 397 attacks against journalists were registered in 2015, including seven murders, making it one of the most violent years for the press in Mexico in recent memory. On average, there was at least one attack a day, an over 20% increase from 2014.

Violence against the press is reflective of the national context, where serious human rights violations such as forced disappearances, extra-judicial executions, and torture are common. Nearly 60% of the 1,832 attacks from 2009 to 2015 were documented during the first three years of the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, and public officials are the alleged perpetrators of around 47% of the attacks. Inaction by the State and a culture of impunity foster an environment where these violations continue unchecked.

Today fear inhabits, to a certain degree, all of Mexico’s newsrooms. In these conditions it is almost impossible to produce journalism that is responsible, diligent, and of public interest.Impunity for those who attackjournalists continuously reminds us that in Mexico, fear is an everyday reality for the press, and an ever-present threat to freedom of expression”, states Darío Ramírez, Director of ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America.

Journalism has been a high risk activity in Mexico for several years, and was even more so in 2015. The two most violent states, Mexico City and Veracruz, each had 67 documented attacks. Guerrero and Puebla followed with 56 and 38, respectively. There has also been an 80% increase in attacks against media outlets, with 69 attacks in 2015. As Mexico’s media moves to increasingly include digital formats, cyberattacks against media outlets have also been increasing. More than half of cyberattacks on the press since 2009 occurred in the past year.

Although the majority of attacks against individuals were against men (244 attacks against male journalists were documented), there were 84 attacks against female journalists,making 2015 the most violent period for women in the press, in the last seven years. The particular nature ofattacks that target female journalists cause distinct harm to their psychosocial well-being, and their personal and professional lives. Women are more likely to receive threats of sexual violence or threats that are directed towards their family or loved-ones. This harassment draws on pre-existing gender tensions, with the aim to stigmatise, ridicule, and discredit the work and views of women journalists.

The absence of effective institutions and the lack of an efficient and proportionate response by the authorities allows impunity to continue and spreads fear further. A drastically improved response to these attacks by the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE in Spanish), The National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH in Spanish), and the FederalMechanism for Protection of Journalists and Human Rights Defenders is necessary to guarantee the free exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

“M.I.E.D.O. paints a disturbing picture of the extent to which journalism and the defense of human rights in Mexico is at risk. Journalists show huge courage in continuing their work despite the fear they face. ARTICLE 19 dedicates this report to those journalists, for providing an example to all of us in how to overcome adversity and for not wavering when under such intense pressure,” concluded Ramírez.

For more information and further findings of the report in Spanish, please click here.