“False” journalism or a broken “democracy”? The right to freedom of the press in Mexico

By Miguel Carrillo (Edited by Isabel Leask)-

English Translation: "The truth is not killed by killing journalists", Source: https://www.elsiglodedurango.com.mx/m/i/2019/06/811891.jpeg

This article is dedicated to Lourdes Maldonado, a Mexican journalist assassinated in front of her house in Tijuana, Baja California, on January 23, 2022.


On February 11th 2022, in the context of rampant violence against journalists in Mexico, the President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), publicly revealed the alleged annual salary of journalist Carlos Loret de Mola. This came after de Mola exposed a story about a luxury house in Houston that the Baker Hughes company leases to the president's son and his daughter-in-law. Baker Hughes is a contractor for Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), a state-owned company into which AMLO has funnelled public money and that in 2020, received direct assignments in PEMEX for 3.9 billion pesos (194 million US dollars). This is but one of many examples of how the current Mexican government is waging a war on freedom of the press.


According to the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression which is an integral part of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), violence against journalists has a triple effect (a) “it violates the right of the victims to express and disseminate their ideas, opinions and information”; (b)“it generates an intimidating and silencing effect on their peers” an (c) “it violates the rights of individuals and societies to seek and receive information and ideas of any kind.” As well as this, in the 6th Article of The Political Constitution of the United Mexican States, it is stated that the dissemination of ideas will not be a reason for judicial persecution.


Despite the above, and under the pretext of an "austere, corruption-free, transparent rule of law" policy, AMLO has repeatedly pointed fingers at independent journalists. He accuses them of publishing fake news and argues that they should make their income public in the name of “ethical journalism”. These accusations and demands have arisen alongside AMLO’s claim that journalists are allegedly being financed by his opponents, highlighting the government’s lack of respect for data protection, journalistic integrity, and the arbitrariness with which they target citizens who criticise their actions.


The government’s treatment of journalists is especially contentious given the perilous situation that those working in press and communications related fields are facing in Mexico as a result of the rise in organised crime, and the ongoing War on Drugs, making journalism an ever-riskier activity. In fact, according to the 2021 World Freedom of Prison Index prepared by Reporters Without Borders, Mexico ranks 143rd out of 180 countries in which journalists are most likely to be victims of threats, repression and executions. Whatsmore, according to EL PAÍS, 147 professionals in the field of communication have been murdered throughout the last two decades in Mexico, with this year alone already resulting in the killings of at least 8 journalists, including, recently, Armando Linares, who was shot and killed in the Mexican state of Michoacan on March 15th 2022.


Furthermore, not only has the government continually sought to restrict the dissemination of ideas, it has also failed to hold perpetrators of violence against journalists to account. UNESCO has documented that at least 86% of crimes against journalists and those working in communications remain unpunished. However, most shockingly perhaps are El PAIS' findings that 40% of the responsibility for these executions actually rests with public officials, such as mayors, security chiefs of the municipality, police, and the military due to their involvement in organised crime. Impunity, then, has become the recurring factor in crimes against journalists in Mexico, and in the face of a clear violation of human rights, the rule of law and accountability are in imminent danger in Mexico.


Paradoxically, the government has attempted to offer some solutions to curb the soaring death rates among journalists. For example, certain governmental systems have been put in place to “protect” journalists and activists in the face of harassment, threats of violence and death. Journalists in danger are able to apply for federal protection or are eligible for protective mechanisms like panic buttons, surveillance systems and domestic relocation in case of threats to life. But these solutions have proved relatively ineffective, and AMLO has only used his platform to blame the opposition, further polarising Mexican society.


The fact is that, if AMLO intends to build his "4th Transformation" project (which has the objective of eliminating “privileged abuses” afflicting Mexican society), he must stop blaming third parties, such as journalists, and start assuming the responsibilities of an elected president. Today more than ever, Mexico needs a governance system in which all public officials, institutions, government and private organisations are held accountable and submit to the laws that are enacted, in addition to generating an efficient and responsive judicial protection system.


The exercise of freedom of expression is essential in the construction of any democracy, which is why it is necessary that the three levels of government in Mexico recognise the importance of the role played by the press, so that the right to freedom of expression is strengthened and vindicated, and that audiences have access to truthful, objective and free information.

 

References:


https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-45712329


Breña, C. M. (11 de Febrero de 2022). Sangre, balas y silencio: periodismo bajo el terror en México. EL PAÍS.

Carrillo, E. (16 de Febrero de 2022). AMLO pide a periodistas transparentar sueldos y bienes por ética. Forbes México.


Federación Mexicana de Organismos Públicos de Derechos Humanos. (01 de Septiembre de 2021). Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. Obtenido de https://www.cndh.org.mx/sites/default/files/documentos/2021-09/Pronunciamiento_FMOPDH.pdf


Oficina del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos. (s.f.). www.ohchr.org. Obtenido de https://www.ohchr.org/SP/AboutUs/ManagementPlan/Pages/law-accountability.aspx


Organización de Estados Americanos. (07 de Mayo de 1981). Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. Obtenido de https://www.cndh.org.mx/sites/default/files/doc/Programas/TrataPersonas/MarcoNormativoTrata/InsInternacionales/Regionales/Convencion_ADH.pdf


Pérez, M. (17 de Enero de 2022). Impunes, nueve de 10 homicidios de periodistas en México. El Economista.


Redacción. (16 de Febrero de 2022). AMLO pide que periodistas ‘famosos’ transparenten sus ingresos. El Financiero.


Relatoría Especial para la Libertad de Expresión . (s.f.). www.oas.org. Obtenido de https://www.oas.org/es/cidh/expresion/docs/brochures/violencia-periodistas-largo.pdf

https://ipi.media/mexico-eighth-journalist-murdered-in-2022/