Pasante de FUNPADEM
Estudiante Universidad Nacional
The increasing violence against reporters in Mexico has led to an undermining of the concept “Freedom of Press”. Freedom of the Press is the cornerstone of a democracy and a free society both of which Mexico claims to be. Historically, Mexico was a one-party system in which the government monopolized the news industry. There was an unspoken mandate secured through large government funding that there would be no defamation of the government. Mexico transitioned to a democratic state in 2000 which extinguished state-regulated press. However, this supposed freedom of the press was coupled with violence against reporters (Fox; 2017).
In the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Mexico was ranked 147th out of 180 countries with a score of 48.97 next to Syria and Afghanistan (RSF; 2017). This poor ranking reflects the lack of government accountability in the protection of its reporters and commitment to freedom of press. Over the past six years there have been 800 cases of violence against reporters brought to court but only two convictions (NY; 2017). An anonymous Mexican law enforcement official said, “It isn’t that they can’t solve these cases, it’s that they don’t want to or aren’t allowed to…Dead journalists look bad for the government, but it’s even worse if they were killed as a result of their work” (ibid). The corruption that plagues the government and law enforcement officials sets a dangerous precedent that crimes against reporters will go unpunished.
Norte, a newspaper published along the Mexican border of Juarez announced in April that it would be shutting down due to the increased violence against reporters and the lack of punishment towards the offenders (Telegraph: 2017). The closing of a newspaper can be deemed extremely problematic due to the perpetuation of an ignorant population from a lack of information. This environment of violence and uncertainty sparks the necessity of self-censorship or forced censorship which furthers the ignorance of a population. To further the problem, reporters who are not victims of violence are often co-opted or paid off by members of organized crime groups. This co-opting of the media results in a distortion of reality and a manipulation of perception. The net result is a population whose information is a creation of private, criminal, and political interests.
Until 2015, Mexico City was considered a relative safe-haven for those threatened by violence. The International Press Freedom Group housed more than 70 internally displaced journalists within the city. That sense of safety was shattered by the murder of renowned photo journalist Ruben Espinosa on July 31st, 2015, along with three women, including a young activist. Ruben was known for his advocacy work calling for investigations of the murders of fellow journalists (Telegraph: 2015). His death ignited a fear amongst journalists everywhere, as it became clear that there was no long any safe-haven. This sense of pervasive danger was exacerbated by the top prosecutor’s labeling of the execution-style murder as a common place robbery (ibid).
The measure of a country’s freedom ultimately lies in the freedom it accords its press. A country may call itself a democracy but if its citizens aren’t receiving reliable information it is only a democracy in name not in fact. If Mexico truly wants to be a democracy it must start by allowing its press the freedom to report the facts perceived and provide checks and balances on the power of government.
Ahmed, A (2017, April 29). In Mexico, ‘It’s Easy to Kill a Journalist’. New York Times. Retrieved May 16, 2017 from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/29/world/americas/veracruz-mexico-reporters-killed.html?_r=0
Pizzey-Siegert, N. (2015, August 10). Mexico’s journalists in fear after murder of reporter in ‘safe haven’ city. Fox News. Retrieved May 16, 2017, from: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/04/04/journalists-in-mexico-killed-in-record-numbers-along-with-freedom-speech.html
Press, A. (2017, April 03). Local Mexican newspaper closes citing killings of journalists. Telegraph. Retrieved May 16, 2017, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/03/local-mexican-newspaper-closes-citing-killings-journalists-
2017 World Press Freedom Index. (n.d). Reporters Without Borders. Retrieved May 16, 2017, from: https://rsf.org/en/ranking?#