2016 Was a Tragic Year for Journalism in Mexico
EspañolOn Saturday, December 10, Jesús Adrián Rodríguez was murdered outside his home in the city of Chihuahua, in northern Mexico,
The motive for the crime, according to many Mexican journalism agencies and prosecutors, is Rodriguez’s profession. He worked as a journalist for Radio Divertida Group.
“The journalists in Chihuahua and throughout the country are extremely dismayed by the murder of a peer, who has been working for many years as a reporter,” said Chihuahua Journalist Forum President Angel Zubia.
Chihuahua Prosecutor Carlos Mario Jimenez told Mexican press that Rodríguez’s journalistic work could be the motive for the crime, and that they were investigating the validity of that suspicion.
A High Risk Workplace
Mexico is considered one of the most dangerous countries to work in as a journalist, who are threatened by both the authorities and organized crime.
According to Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press report, Mexico does not have true freedom of the press.
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One of the biggest giveaways of this fact is the controversial Telecom Law signed by President Enrique Peña Nieto in 2014. It gives the government control over the ways in which the media operates, including avoiding possible communication monopolies. For community radio stations, it prevents the sale of ads, so revenue has to come directly from the government.
Additionally, journalists receive horrible treatment when they reveal government corruption, as occurred with Carmen Aristegui and the famous White House of Mexico. Her team investigated the origin of the house, valued at about USD $7 million, and discovered that it belonged to one of the main contractors of the government. After releasing the news, Aristegui and her team were dismissed from MVS Noticias, where they broadcast their radio program every morning.
Reporters under threat
This year was the most violent for journalists in President Peña Nieto’s presidency. In 2016, one journalist was murdered in Mexico every month. From July to September, there were 29.3 attacks per month on journalists — almost one daily, according to the organization Article 19.
In 2015, seven journalists were killed, four in 2014 and four in 2013. In 2001 (when Felipe Calderón was president) there were eleven murders total.
During the 72nd General Assembly of the Inter-American Press Association in October, Pierre Manigault, its president, asked that Enrique Peña Nieto clarify the numbers of murders of journalists in the country.
“We have not yet received an adequate response from the states, and their crimes remain unpunished,” Maigault said. “You are certainly aware of these unpunished and incomplete murder cases in the country.”
“Freedom of expression and of the press are the best weapons against authoritarianism,” Ñieto responded. “The government is respectful of what journalists think and transmit.”
He said he was aware that there are still crimes against journalists happening around the country, which must be solved. But he said it is necessary that state governments also take actions.
Latent Impunity in Mexico
Between July and September of 2016, Pedro Tamayo, a journalist in Veracruz, was assassinated. Agustín Pavia, a radio announcer for Tu Un Ñuu Savi in Oaxaca was also killed. Most recently, Aurelio Cabrera, a journalist from El Gráfico de Huachinango, was murdered in Puebla.
The Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) have been not thoroughly investigated, critics said, and this, Article 19 said, “sends a message of permissibility, of extreme violence as well as contempt toward freedom of expression.”
Political Animal, a Mexican media outlet, reported that nearly 100 percent of attacks against journalists in Mexico remain in impunity.
An Attorney General’s office report showed that from August 2010 to August 2016, 798 preliminary investigations were carried out for crimes against journalists in Mexico, of which only two resulted in a judicial decisions.
“Harassment on the Internet, especially through threats on social networking platforms, has become a way to intimidate, infuse fear and censor,” an Article 19 report on threats to journalists on social media said.
Six out of 10 threats are made through digital media, a drastic increase. Over 4.5 threats per months were documented in the third quarter of the year, Article 19 said.
Among the ways to harass journalists on the web are ‘bot operatives’ — accounts dedicated to harassing a user on Twitter; ‘digital hit men’ — organized communities that sell their services to harass users; and defamation campaigns — aggressive, systematic attacks that extract sensitive or private information of a victim from his or her personal account.