1 October 2008
IFEX members take action to protect journalists against violence in Mexico
Under the slogan "What you don't know can hurt you”, ARTICLE 19 and the National Center for Social Communication (CENCOS) have launched the Permanent Campaign to Protect Journalists in Mexico on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
A culture of impunity prevails in Mexico, where journalists are threatened, abducted, assaulted and even murdered for publishing critical information. These violations, increasing in number, not only restrict the freedom of expression of those who practise the profession but also the right of a society as a whole to be informed.
Through the campaign, ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS hope to draw attention to the country's dangerous environment for the media by closely monitoring free expression violations, and supporting journalists, media owners and directors in achieving the level of safety needed to truly exercise press freedom. They are also reaching out to other active IFEX members and groups in the region who are interested in creating a nationwide journalist safety network.
"What you don't know can hurt you" also boasts the support of high-profile press freedom advocates. Guests at the launch included Lydia Cacho, a Mexican reporter who has been the target of death threats, sabotage, defamation suits and police harassment because of her work uncovering prostitution and child pornography networks, and Rosa Isela Caballero, the wife of journalist José Antonio García Apac. García disappeared two years ago in Michoacán.
To support organisations in effective human rights monitoring, ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS published three resources – a guidebook on freedom of expression Mexico, a protocol around reporting and documentation, and an analysis drawing from a recent international seminar on the methodology of monitoring violations against journalists. All of this is available on the recently launched campaign website: http://www.libertad-expresion.org.mx
ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS hope that the campaign will serve as a model for future advocacy initiatives in other countries in the region facing similar circumstances.
Other IFEX members in Mexico have also focused their efforts in safeguarding journalists. The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as well as several other national organisations have been active monitors and advocates during the deepening crisis in Mexico.
AMARC Mexico maintains frequent communication with prominent intergovernmental and transnational human rights bodies to ensure concrete steps are taken towards protecting community radio stations, which have been particularly vulnerable to the increasing aggressions and attacks.
CEPET has been amplifying the impact of it alerts on violations by lobbying at the federal level for legislation to protect journalists and contributing to investigating the unresolved deaths of journalists. The organisation notes that the National Commission for Human Rights has found irregularities in at least six cases of murdered journalists.
Earlier this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published a special report, "The Disappeared in Mexico", which revealed that seven reporters – many of whom had investigated links between public officials and drug traffickers – have vanished in the past three years.
RSF also made a recent appeal to the international community to support journalists who are trying to leave the country. The organisation has been lobbying the U.S. government to take emergency measures at the U.S. border "to make the necessary humanitarian provisions for journalists who are forced to flee into exile."
All these IFEX members have been active in monitoring and spreading information about the gross human rights violations in Mexico and have also raised their voices in unison with several joint actions and alerts that have reached international audiences through the IFEX network.
Although the work of individual organisations is significant, IFEX members have highlighted that collaborative communication, support and agreements are increasingly relevant strategies to uphold the safety of threatened journalists.
“Collaboration has helped achieve greater media coverage of aggressions against journalists and violations of the right to freedom of expression,” said CEPET.