March 11, 2013
In Mexico City today, PEN International released the following statement at the time of its first official meeting with the Attorney General of Mexico, Jesus Murillo Karam.
In January 2012, a large PEN International Delegation assembled in Mexico, led by its full executive and including representatives of all seven North American PEN Centres. PEN put forward five specific recommendations, met with key government figures and held public events.
In March 2013, a follow-up PEN International Delegation is in Mexico, led by its President, to evaluate what progress has been made and to make further recommendations.
Thus far, we are deeply disturbed by what we have found:
Mexico remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. In the last year a further 11 journalists have been killed. This brings the total since 2000 to at least 78 journalists, writers and bloggers. Also since 2002, 12 others have disappeared; countless have been threatened and harassed; and there have been frequent attacks on media outlets with explosives and firearms.
Despite Mexico’s Constitutional and international human rights obligations, the basic human rights of journalists and writers continue to be violated. These include the right to live free of torture, and the rights to life, work, and freedom of expression.
It is still rare that crimes against journalists are properly investigated. The authorities have failed to successfully prosecute over 90% of cases. The Special Prosecutor’s Office for the Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) has only claimed a single conviction since its establishment in 2006.
In June 2012, the Mexican Constitution was amended to enable federal authorities to investigate and prosecute crimes against journalists and freedom of expression. PEN applauds this move. But Congress has not yet approved the necessary implementation laws.
A completely separate Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists was decreed on 22 June 2012. The operating mechanisms are still not fully in place and the spending program remains unclear.
A web of laws limits free expression and the exposure of corruption. Fourteen Mexican states continue to criminalize defamation; these laws are used to harass journalists who uncover corruption. Regulatory frameworks impede media diversification.
THE SITUATION REMAINS URGENT AND DEMANDS AN IMMEDIATE RESPONSE. THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT MUST:
1. Pursue the passing of the secondary laws necessary to implement the constitutional amendment (Article 73, Clause 21). This amendment empowers federal authorities to investigate and prosecute crimes against journalists and freedom of expression. However, it will only come into effect with legislative changes to the Federal Penal Code, the Federal Code on Penal Procedures and the Organic Law of the Federation’s Judiciary;
2. Ensure that FEADLE adopts a rigorous program of investigations and prosecutions;
3. Ensure that steps are taken towards the complete decriminalisation of defamation in all 32 Mexican states;
4. Act with the State governments to make the new protection mechanism concrete and functional. This can only be done effectively through consultation with those at risk.
5. In this context, the governments of Canada, the United States and the European Union, must insist that the above recommendations be implemented. Future counternarcotic aid to Mexico should be conditional on this implementation.
Writers and publishers around the world are watching to see whether the new government of President Enrique Peña Nieto will make and enforce the necessary legal, administrative and financial changes.
Above all, our message is this: the Mexican government must demonstrate that it has the political will to act in order to save lives and protect freedom of expression.
Note to Editors
To learn more, download a copy of PEN International’s March 2013 report on Mexico to the United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review at http://bit.ly/XUFCjv
See also the June 2011 report by PEN Canada and the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, Corruption, Impunity, Silence: The War on Mexico’s Journalists at: http://bit.ly/15t1Lrk
For more information, contact:
In Mexico: Alain Pescador, firstname.lastname@example.org; (55) 4457-9538
Alicia Quiñones, email@example.com; (55) 4232-2179
In London: Tamsin Mitchell, Tamsin.Mitchell@pen-international.org; +44 (0) 78 246 40527