Violence censors journalists in Mexico

This is a version of an article which appeared in Press Gazette last month.

While traveling home through Pánuco, Veracruz with his 16 year old son in late January this year, Octavio Soto Torres, journalist and director of the Mexican daily Voces de Veracruz, was shot at by four masked gunmen. This was just the latest in the ongoing litany of attacks against journalists in Mexico. Torres, who escaped alive, is known for his harsh criticism of local authorities.

As Mexico continues its transition towards a real democracy and the administration of President Felipe Calderon ups its fights against narco-traffick and organized crime in the country, journalists who cover politics, drugs and crime take huge risks. Attacks take place nearly every week and few are ever investigated, according to NGOs monitoring freedom of expression issues in the country.

Although fewer journalists were murdered in Mexico last year than during 2006, the levels of violence and intimidation against them have increased, according to the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) and Mexico’s own National Human Rights Commission.

So what are editors and journalists doing to avoid serious harm? Mostly nothing – literally. Continue reading

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Rights group attacks impunity in Mexico

article19The limited attempts of the Mexican Government to tackle the high levels of violence against journalists testifies ‘to the inability or unwillingness of the Mexican authorities to make the fight against impunity,’ according to Article19, the freedom of expression NGO.

Dr. Agnes Callamard, executive director of the group, said in a statement that the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for violence against journalists is ‘one of the most alarming characteristics of the overall human rights situation in Mexico’.

Mexico is still the deadliest country in the Americas for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders. Continue reading

Murder attempt on human rights activist, says report

Alberto Capella Ibarra in his house, damaged by Tuesday morning's attackArmed men opened fire on the house of Alberto Capella Ibarra, a freedom of information advocate who lives in Baja California, Mexico, at 230am on Tuesday morning.

According to Article 19, around 20 gunmen opened fire on the house of the chairman of the Citizen Council on Public Security (Consejo Ciudadano de Seguridad Pública) in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The police took half-an-hour to respond, according to the report, despite the fact that Capella Ibarra’s house is located very close to the local police station.

Continue reading

‘Mexican newspapers don’t explain Mexico’ says journalist

Mexican newspaper publishers sell only three million newspapers a day in a country with a population of 106 million. Most Mexican journalists will tell you that Mexican’s don’t read because Mexican newspapers have yet to get round to the job of ‘explaining Mexico’, according to Ronald Buchanan, a Scottish freelance journalist based in Mexico City.

OK, so it’s in Buchanan’s interest to say that as he is a regular writer for recently launched English-language newspaper the News in Mexico City, but he has a point. Newspapers here are rife with bias, personal attacks on politicians and partisan editorializing, making it hard if not impossible for Mexicans (never mind foreigners) to understand what’s going on. Continue reading

‘Mexican Government is main perpetrator of violence against journalists in Mexico’, says human rights expert

Dario Ramirez, head of Article19’s programme in Mexico‘The Mexican Government is one of the main perpetrators of violence against journalists in the country and complicit in its continuance,’ according to one of the country’s leading freedom of expression organisations.

Mexico is reportedly the second most dangerous country to work as a journalist after Iraq. But speaking to MexicoReporter.com last week Dario Ramirez, head of Article19’s programme in Mexico, was keen to dispel what he says is the generally held-belief that the main perpetrators of the violence are networks of organized crime.

“Let’s not fool ourselves and say that the perpetrators of the violence are the groups of organized crime, as the government wants us to believe.

“It suits the [Mexican] government that there is so much aggression against journalists,” said Ramirez. Continue reading