Freedom of the press just a nice idea in Mexico
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)’s special rapporteur on Freedom of Expression said the Mexican government was actually “encouraging” the increasing attacks against journalists recorded in the country.
The Colombian envoy Pedro Vaca criticized the indifference of Mexican authorities regarding the 1,945 aggressions, 33 murders, and two disappearances of press professionals in the three years since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador came to power.
It is a sustained tragedy and, therefore, normalized, Vaca underlined.
In 2021 alone, there were 644 aggressions, one every 14 hours, including intimidation, harassment, threats, illegitimate use of public power, physical attacks, and blocking or alteration of content.
According to Vaca’s report, the situation was noticeably worse in Mexico City and in the States of Guerrero, Puebla, Baja California, and Yucatán.
In recent times, the institutional reaction seems to be resigned to seeing violence against the press not as a phenomenon to be eradicated, but as a situation that must be lived with, said the rapporteur in his annual report to the IACHR.
Vaca’s document was titled Denial, which sums up the Government’s attitude on the subject. Under López Obrador, there were 85% more attacks on the press compared to the same period of the previous administration of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018).
According to the rapporteur’s tally, 42.5% of the aggressions against journalists were executed by government authorities, 21.31% by private individuals, 9.1% by political parties, and only 6.5% by organized crime.
In other words, most attacks against the Mexican press stemmed from public officials, Vaca said.
Leopoldo Maldonado, who heads Article 19’s Mexico bureau said that aggressions against journalists were encouraged from Mañanera, AMLO’s daily conference at the National Palace.
The official narrative of stigmatization has expanded to point out dissident voices, he stated, accusing López Obrador of denying reality by assuring that there no longer is corruption, violence, impunity or attacks on free expression.
Maldonado added that this practice of official disinformation, public stigmatization of the press, [and] discretionality in the allocation of official advertising [funds, and] deception in the transparency system covered up the ongoing violence against journalists and human rights violations.
Article 19 is a London-based NGO dedicated to the defense of freedom of expression. It has reported that in 2021 there were at least 71 denigrations against the press in AMLO’s morning conference, which has created a cascade effect leading up to 46 related cases in which public and private actors used the same insults to disqualify information professionals.
According to Article 19, 40% of the President’s statements are false and in 50% of the requests for information through the Transparency Law to verify the allegations, the Presidency of the Republic declared itself incompetent to respond.
López Obrador created a section of his conference every Wednesday to divulge alleged lies from journalists about his government.
The IACHR rapporteur said he had long asked the government to halt this section because it only seeks government control over the press, which is incompatible with democracy.
Vaca maintains that the scope, methodology, content analysis criteria, and operation of this section have not been made public, so the longer it takes to make them known, the more doubts there will be about whether it is a space for reply or an instance of selective government auditing of journalistic work.