Human Rights and Civil Society

Mexico lags in taking steps to protect journalists, according to several reports

Map taken from the Committee to Protect Journalists' "2014 Global Impunity Index" showing the country's with the highest level of impunity for crimes against journalists.
Map taken from the Committee to Protect Journalists’ “2014 Global Impunity Index” showing the countries with the highest level of impunity for crimes against journalists. Photo: Committee to Protect Journalists.

04/28/14 (written by cmolzahn) — According to a recent review by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Mexico ranks in the bottom seven countries worldwide in its efforts to investigate and punish crimes against journalists. With this ranking, Mexico remains in the same position it found itself in 2013 in CPJ’s Global Impunity Index, ranking above only Iraq, Somalia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Afghanistan.

CPJ found that Mexico has 0.132 unsolved murders of journalists per million inhabitants. By comparison, Iraq, at the bottom of the list, had 3.067 unsolved murders per million inhabitants. Afghanistan, ranking 6th, had 0.168, while India (13th) had just 0.006. Colombia and Brazil were the only other Latin American countries included on the list, with Colombia ranking one spot below Mexico, with 0.126 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants, and Brazil at the 11th position, with 0.045. CPJ criticized that “justice continued to evade Mexican journalists who face unrelenting violence for reporting on crime and corruption.” The organization reports 16 journalists killed with impunity during the past ten years, with one killed in 2014, though other groups, including Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) estimate the number to be much higher. CPJ did recognize Mexico’s efforts last April to create a special federal prosecutor for pursuing crimes against journalists that circumvents what it deems “more corrupt and less effective state law enforcement officials.” Nevertheless, it says, many criticize that the new office has thus far been slow to implement its new authority. The report points out the failed prosecution in the case of Proceso reporter Regina Martínez Pérez, killed in 2012, in which some, including the editorial board of Proceso, believe that the wrong person was convicted for her murder. It also mentions the dismissal of charges last September against one of the men alleged to have gunned down Zeta magazine editor J. Jesús Blancornelas in 1997. These shortcomings, says CPJ, “further fueled concerns that the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto is not up to the task of breaking Mexico’s cycle of impunity and violence.”

The CPJ report came a month after Artículo 19, a Mexican free speech advocacy organization, released its own report claiming that of the 330 acts of aggression against journalists reported in 2013, 60% were committed by government officials. The acts included threats and other acts of intimidation, arbitrary detentions, and kidnappings, along with the murders of four reporters. The report indicated that state and municipal police officers were responsible for 87 attacks, which included 24 illegal detentions of journalists attempting to carry out their jobs. Artículo 19 says that much of the violence against journalists is concentrated in the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Tamaulipas and Veracruz, although it said it had detected increases in 2013 in the states of Baja California, Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Tlaxcala, and Zacatecas, and in the Federal District (Distrito Federal, DF). The group attributed the increase in the capital to police response to public demonstrations throughout the year. The report concluded that “[t]he fear of suffering new attacks without the protection of the State caused them to modify their professional activity. In [some] occasions, they stop covering police events, they auto-censor or directly cut off [reporting].”

For its part, Mexico’s Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reported in April that in Mexico there is a 90% rate of impunity in cases of murders and disappearances of journalists. The CNDH says that just 19% of cases are brought before a judge, with just 10% resulting in a conviction. In a press release, the CNDH placed the blame for the high level of impunity in such crimes squarely on state and federal investigators who, by not providing the necessary “personal security, as well as judicial security,” are endangering freedom of expression. Through a CNDH program for addressing aggressions against journalists and human rights advocates (Programa de Agravios a Periodistas y Defensores Civiles de Derechos Humanos), the agency says it has received a total of 347 complaints of human rights violations committed against media professionals since 2010. Moreover, the CNDH reports that during the same time 88 individuals working in the journalism profession have been murdered, presumably in connection with their work. The CNDH has also documented the disappearance of 20 media professionals since 2005, along with 41 attacks on media stations since 2006, across 24 states.


“60% de las agresiones a periodistas en México, de funcionarios: Article 19.” CNN México. March 18, 2014.

Witchel, Elisabeth. “Getting Away With Murder.” Committee to Protect Journalists. April 16, 2014.

Sánchez, Julián. “Tienen agresiones a periodistas 90% de impunidad: CNDH.” El Universal. April 20, 2014.

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