International Community Denounces Mexico for Treatment of Journalists in Light of Recent Wave of Murders

Three journalists were murdered in the past two months in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Most recently, Mexican journalist Javier Rodríguez Valladares was gunned down in Cancun, making his murder the eighth since the beginning of the year.

The problem of violence against reporters in Mexico has drawn more and more attention from the international community this year. The United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution in early August condemning Mexico for failing to protect journalists.

This marked the first such condemnation by this committee towards Mexico. The committee cited the inhumane treatment of reporter Lydia Cacho, who was imprisoned, tortured and threatened with rape in 2005.

Leopoldo Maldonado, the deputy press director of Article 19 Mexico, compared the state of Mexico to a “mafia” that “persecutes those who search for justice and protect human rights.”

The Human Rights Council also called on Mexico to pay reparations to Cacho and to repeal the state laws that punish calumny and defamation with jail time.

Because state laws supercede federal laws in Mexico, detrimental libel laws still exist in eight states and continue to provide legal grounds to imprison and suppress journalists. In May 2016, a Supreme Court ruling overturned “Ley de Periodistas,” or “Journalist’s Law,” which put a limit on how much a journalist could be fined for defamation.

Sergio Aguayo, for instance, published a column criticizing a politician arrested under suspicion of money laundering and faced a $535,000 fine in “moral damages” as a result.

Rampant corruption in the government and local police forces as well as powerful cartels flexing their strength contribute to the rising number of murdered journalists in the country. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported a decline in worldwide killings of journalists at the end of 2017; however, the only country to defy that trend was Mexico, which suffered 11 killings in 2017.

Mexico continues to be one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to do their job in, ranking 147 out of 180 nations on the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

The organization published a report in late August condemning not only the murder rate of reporters in Mexico but the rate of permanently missing journalists in the country. Over the past 15 years, over 20 journalists have disappeared, giving Mexico the unfortunate title of the nation with the largest amount of missing journalists in the western hemisphere.

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