06/25/12—Mexico’s new Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists (Ley para la Protección de Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas) will take effect tomorrow, June 26, after the Ministry of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación, Segob) published the law in its official gazette (Diario Oficial de la Federación) today, and following President Felipe Calderón’s signing of the bill last Friday, June 22. The Executive branch now has a maximum of six months to issue regulations to put the law into practice.
As El Universal reported, the new law is intended to protect the lives of journalists and human rights defenders, perhaps most importantly by establishing mechanisms to evacuate or temporarily remove, provide body guards for, and protect the property of such individuals in danger given their line of work. The law also establishes mechanisms for cooperation, such as the Mechanism of Protection for Defenders of Human Rights and Journalists (Mecanismo de Protección para Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas), between the national and state governments, which are designed to protect the safety of those on the front lines of freedom of expression and human rights advocacy.
The new law also provides that, in the next week and a half, a compliance committee (Junta de Gobierno) must be established to ensure correct implementation and ongoing application of its provisions. The Federal Public Administration agency (Administración Pública Federal, APF) and the National Commision for Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) will participate. After the committee’s first meeting, it will have ten additional days to issue an invitation to human rights activists, journalists, and free speech advocates to take part in a rotating, nine-member council (Consejo Consultitivo) that will advise the committee on its work. Officials from Segob, the Office of the Attorney General (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), and the Public Safety Ministry (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP) will work in collaboration to implement the law’s provisions.
Despite the much needed provisions in the law, which is being implemented amidst an incredibly violent few months for journalists in Mexico, Amnesty International’s director for Mexico, Alberto Herrera Aragón, believes that the new law will pose challenges for Mexican authorities to comply with. He specifically referenced that it dictates strict deadlines by which protection measures must be taken in the case of a threat to a journalist or human rights worker, and specific sanctions for government in compliance. Herrera Aragón also noted the responsibility it puts on the federal government, saying, “The life of journalists and Human Rights defenders literally depends on the diligence that the federal public administration has on properly implementing this new law.”