December 6, 2017 / By David Kaye, http://www.scoop.co.nz/
Mexico must take bold steps to address the violence faced by journalists, two human rights experts have stated after a week-long official mission examining freedom of expression in the country.
“Violence against journalists has been a crisis for Mexico for more than a decade, and yet, despite the Government’s creation of protection and prosecution mechanisms, impunity and insecurity continue to characterize the situation throughout the country,” said David Kaye and Edison Lanza, Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression for the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
“In this situation, we urge the Government to rapidly and substantially increase the resources available to the mechanisms which have been set up to deliver protection and accountability. Mexico has already taken the laudable step of creating these institutions; now it should give them the tools to be effective.
“The need to address protection and accountability will be especially critical in 2018, when Mexicans will vote in federal, state and local elections. Ensuring the safety of journalists enables them to gather and disseminate information on matters of the highest public interest,” the experts said, in a joint statement at the end of their visit.
The Special Rapporteurs added: “We were inspired by the passion of the journalists we met, their commitment to their role of informing Mexican society, and their eagerness to investigate corruption, organised crime or other matters of public interest, regardless of the risks they know they could face.”
“We were appalled by the stories we heard from journalists, presenting a dire picture of the hostile environment they faced. Sexual harassment against women journalists, reporters forced to flee their homes, killings and disappearances, and pervasive impunity were common features in their narratives,” they said.
The Special Rapporteurs urged the Government to conduct an independent investigation into the well-documented reports of the digital surveillance of journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and others. They expressed particular concern that the surveillance appeared to take place in the absence of legal and judicial controls.
The Government established the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in 2012, after a visit by the previous UN and IACHR Special Rapporteurs in 2010 and a campaign by civil society. A specialized prosecution mechanism was earlier created within the Office of the Prosecutor General in 2010.
During their mission, from 27 November to 4 December, the Special Rapporteurs met more than 250 journalists and members of civil society organizations, from 21 Mexican states.
The Special Rapporteurs also followed-up on recommendations issued by their predecessors in 2010 and evaluated progress on these recommendations, meeting high-level federal and state level authorities in Mexico City, Guerrero, Sinaloa, Veracruz, and Tamaulipas.
They highlighted a range of issues such as efforts to combat impunity, access to information, official advertising, media pluralism, victims’ rights, and concerns over a proposed internal security law on freedom of expression. Their recommendations include strengthening the protection mechanism with resources, both human and economic, stressing that these measures needed to be backed at the highest political level.
The Special Rapporteurs thanked the Government for inviting them to carry out their official joint mission. They will present full reports in 2018.