06/20/12 – On June 7, Veracruz governor Javier Duarte announced that a formal request was made to amend the Mexican Constitution in order to create a Commission to Protect Journalists in light of the recent wave of journalist-targeted violence. To date, over 95 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, seven of which since the end of April 2012, and five of those in Veracruz alone. The most recent reporter slain was Víctor Manuel Báez of Milenio and Reporteros Policiacos, who was killed on June 13 in Xalapa, Veracruz. (For more information on his death, click here.) There have long been calls to establish a commission of this nature given such high numbers, and the recent violence seems to have brought the issue to the forefront. While it appeared that recent efforts had been stalled, President Felipe Calderón is expected to sign the new commission into law –called the Law to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Defenders (Ley de Protección a Periodistas y Defensores de Derechos Humanos)– on Friday, June 22. Opposition parties argue that the proper procedures have not been followed while pushing the bill through the legislature, however, which may delay its passage.
As Rupert Knox, an investigator for Amnesty International, argues, “This newest wave of homicides of journalists should serve as an alert to the Mexican authorities; that they should do more to protect journalists that are held back from doing their jobs [due to this violence].” The recent spike in violence against journalists in Veracruz has not been lost on other periodistas. True to Knox’s statement, 15 journalists have fled the state of Veracruz recently due to a lack of governmental protection. This stands as strong support for the measures currently being pushed by Governor Duarte.
A recent set of demands by the journalist community, translated as “Enough Crimes Against the Freedom of Expression,” pleads for the federal and state governments of Mexico and Veracruz to take heightened measures against the recent homicides. The article calls the state of Veracruz to increase its commitment to prosecute crimes against journalists, among other pleas. On the federal side, it seeks to employ the use of the executive branch’s resources, including the Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF), to effectively combat the violence against journalists. It also calls for the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) to assume an increased role with greater transparency in investigating journalist-specific crimes in order to protect the freedom of the press in Mexico.