The SRFOE expresses its concern over institutional tolerance for the disclosure of journalists' personal data in Mexico

March 6, 2024

Washington D.C.- The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the institutional tolerance for the disclosure of journalists’ personal data in Mexico, and it urges the State to act in accordance with human rights standards.

According to public information, on February 22, in his usual daily press conference, the President of the Republic made public the telephone number of journalist Natalie Kitroeff, correspondent of the New York Times in Mexico. Subsequently, the Information Service of the Public Broadcasting System of the Mexican State published a video displaying a photograph of the journalist, accusing her of publishing articles "without evidence and with an absence of journalistic rigor." When questioned about this matter, the President did not warn of any excesses on his part and pointed out that his right to defend himself from "slander" is "above any regulation." For its part, the National Institute of Transparency and Access to Information (INAI) announced an ex officio investigation, and YouTube removed the recording of the press conference alleging "harmful behavior" such as "doxing."

The IACHR recognizes that it is legitimate and sometimes a duty for state authorities to speak out on issues of public interest and defend themselves against criticism and questioning from the press.

However, the Office of the Special Rapporteur is concerned about the seriousness of disclosing the personal data of journalists, particularly in the context of official statements, as this practice can potentially "accentuate or exacerbate situations of hostility, intolerance or animosity" by sectors of the population towards journalists or the media, especially in a country with high rates of violence against the press. The disclosure of this type of information by public authorities can be reasonably interpreted as a threat, stigmatization, and abuse of power. The IACHR has repeatedly stated that people who participate in public debate from a leading role, including public officials, serve "as a vector that amplifies and accelerates the dissemination of stigmatizing messages."

This Office urges the State to address the causes and consequences of these official decisions, taking into consideration that, in their right to defend themselves from criticism and questioning, the authorities must distance themselves from any discourse that is intolerant, discriminatory or invasive of privacy and that may, directly or indirectly, promote violence against sectors of the population that seek to contribute to public deliberation through the expression and dissemination of their thoughts. The harmful consequences that may derive from official statements could compromise the State’s international responsibility.

For the SRFOE, the governmental disclosure of unfinished journalistic processes and personal data prior to the autonomously determined moment by the media affects the conditions the State is expected to uphold for the practice of journalism; discourages the contrast of sources as a desirable practice in the media; and results in self-censorship. The Office of the Special Rapporteur considers that publishing propaganda pieces directed against women journalists through state-owned media does not contribute to the quality of public debate and deepens polarization.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.

No. R046/24

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