Freedom of Expression

Press Release R32/16

Situation of the Right to Freedom of Expression in Mexico: Findings and Recommendations of the IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur

March 9, 2016

Washington, D.C. – On the occasion of the publication of the report "Human Rights Situation in Mexico" adopted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression highlights the findings and recommendations related to the right to freedom of expression, in order to assist the State of Mexico in strengthening its efforts to respect and ensure the exercise of this fundamental right in its jurisdiction.

In the report published a few days ago, the IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur addressed the serious situation of violence affecting journalists, human rights defenders and communicators for exercising their right to freedom of expression, which makes them a group at especial risk. According to official figures, between 2010 and 2015, more than 55 journalists were murdered in Mexico. Most of these crimes remain unpunished, particularly their masterminds have not been identified, making it difficult to determine the connection of the crimes with the victims’ profession.

The IACHR stressed that violence against communicators has been particularly acute in those states in Mexico where there is a strong organized crime presence. In many cases, members of these groups act in collusion with government agents. Information available to the IACHR enables it to affirm that most journalists who have been the victims of violence had denounced or reported on administrative corruption in the local sphere, drug trafficking, organized crime, public safety and related matters.

The report reiterates that both the Commission as well as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have established the intimidating effect that crimes against journalists have on other media professionals as well as those who aim to denounce abuses of power or illicit acts of any nature. Information has also been received about disappearances and attacks on the lives and personal integrity of journalists by state and non-state agents, practices of harassment and threats, surveillance and interception of communications.

According to information gathered by the Office of the Special Rapporteur during the on-site visit to Mexico, the situation of violence against journalists, communicators and media workers in Mexico has been increasing in recent years, particularly in states such as Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Chihuahua and Oaxaca, despite constitutional and legislative reforms and the adoption of measures to safeguard their integrity, such as the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, approved in 2012.

The IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur recognized that the protection mechanism has begun to be implemented and that 190 journalists and 273 human rights defenders have been beneficiaries. However, challenges have arisen to the efficacy of the measures employed for their protection. The Office of the Special Rapporteur invites the State to continue efforts to strengthen this body.

The Commission also expressed concern over the high rates of impunity in these crimes. According to official figures, the Special Prosecutor’s Unit for Attention to Crimes against Freedom of Expression (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión (Feadle)) began 458 preliminary investigations of cases that could be linked to the exercise of journalism between December 1, 2012 and August 31, 2015. Of that total, the Prosecutor’s Unit declared it had not jurisdiction to review 176 cases. Only in 53 cases a suspect was brought before a judge. The Special Unit has only affirmed its jurisdiction in 40 cases since 2013 when it was granted legal powers to investigate these crimes. The Commission views with concern the fact that it is the investigative entity itself that, using different arguments, creates obstacles for taking on investigations, which could affect its ability to effectively carry out its mandate.

The IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur recommended that the Mexican State maintain the character of specialized prosecutor’s office and provide it with sufficient financial and human resources to enable it to do its work. The Special Rapporteur also urged the State to implement strategies so that the different institutions, both at the federal and state levels, would work in a coordinated manner to provide a comprehensive response in all matters associated with the protection of human rights defenders and journalists. It also encouraged the protection mechanism to act on its own initiative as well as to implement a dissemination strategy about its functions and the requirements for entering the program.

Based on these findings and recommendations, the Office of the Special Rapporteur encourages the State to continue strengthening its efforts to guarantee full exercise of the right to freedom of expression in the country.

The following link contains the findings and recommendations made by the IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of the Right to Freedom of Expression in Mexico, which is part of the recently published Country Report.

The IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur highlighted the availability, and collaboration shown both in organizing and during the on-site visit. They also expressed their gratitude to all the actors they met with during the visit and values the information gathered and testimonies heard, in particular families, victims and representatives of civil society. In turn, the State sent comments to the draft report available for consultation here (only in Spanish).

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the IACHR to stimulate hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.