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PEN International Statement - Mexican Senate Backs Federalization of Crimes against Freedom of Expression

Wednesday 14 March 2012 - 12:00am

14 March 2012

PEN International warmly welcomes the Mexican Senate’s approval, on 13 March 2012, of a constitutional amendment, which, if passed by Mexico’s states, will federalize crimes against journalists.

John Ralston Saul, International President of PEN International said:

"This amendment was the focus of our recent delegation to Mexico City, and in particular of our conversation with the President of the Senate and other Senators. Its passage is a very important step in the reforming of Mexican law to make it serve the freedom of expression of Mexican writers and Mexican citizens as a whole."

Jennifer Clement, President of PEN Mexico said:

"PEN Mexico applauds this historic step taken by the Mexican senate to federalize crimes against journalists. This is only the beginning as each individual state must ratify the amendment and then true measures to end the devastating violence and impunity must be put into place. We, along with all PEN centres in the world, continue to stand watch."

PEN International has long campaigned for an end to impunity in Mexico. In January 2012 we sent an international delegation to Mexico City which met with, among others, the President of the Senate, José González Morfín, the then Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression, Gustavo Salas, and the Mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to practise journalism. Since 2000 at least 67 journalists, writers and bloggers have been murdered in connection to their work; at least twelve have disappeared.

One of the key demands made by PEN International during the delegation’s visit was that crimes against journalists and freedom of expression be federalized.

The amendment, if ratified, will modify Article 73 of the Mexican Constitution, giving federal authorities jurisdiction over any crime committed against journalists, persons and organizations which impinges on their right to free expression. In practice, the vast majority of attacks on journalists in Mexico have been dealt with at state level, where corruption and inefficiency is endemic. Handing responsibility to federal authorities will bring greater resources to any investigation; the federal authorities are also considered to be less susceptible to corruption.

Versions of the legislation have been debated since 2008. The amendment now needs to be passed by a majority of the states for it to become law.