140 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index
Area: 1,958,200 sq. Km.
Head of state: Felipe Calderon (since December 2006)
Mexico now outstrips Colombia in the ranks of countries in which the safety of the media is most under threat on the continent. Not one of the murders or disappearances of journalists since 2000 has really been solved. The drug cartels are not the only ones to blame for this situation.
Mexico now outstrips Colombia in the ranks of countries on the continent where the media is most under threat. The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has recorded 46 killings of journalists since 2000 and a further eight have disappeared since 2003, either because of their work or most often for an unknown motive. The existence of the drug cartels goes a long way to explain this terrible toll. The start of the 21st Century in fact coincided with a new phase in the expansion of drug trafficking. The federal government, in response to a demand from the USA, was forced to boost control of its airspace by which the drugs reached the northern border. The “narcos”, who since then have been forced to use sea and land routes, have spread out over the country, fighting one another to control routes, infiltrating the apparatus of local government and exposing journalists displaying too much curiosity to greater reprisals. The situation worsened still further after Felipe Calderon took power in 2006, the date of the launch of a massive offensive against drug trafficking that left more than 5,000 dead in 2008, one quarter of whom were killed in the border city of Ciudad Juarez alone. At the height of score-settling between the Juarez and the Sinaloa cartels, combined with a brutal military response, Armando Rodriguez Carreon, of the daily El Diario, who had received several warnings that a contract was out on him, was shot dead on 13 November 2008. His colleague on the same paper, Emilio Gutierrez Issu, who was under threat from a group of soldiers, had decided to flee to the United States a few months earlier and was held in custody by immigration for seven months. Journalists have increasingly been choosing exile as an alternative to continuing to work under threat and not only from the cartels. Corruption on the part of elected officials, sometimes in cahoots with drug-traffickers, or human rights violations by police or the army are other high risk subjects for the Mexican media, especially local journalists. This state of affairs goes a long way to explain the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the executive or the courts to ensure that light is shed on the murder of journalists. Not one of the 46 murders since 2000 has ever really been resolved, as most of the investigations have been mired in irregularities. The special federal court, set up a few months before the election of Felipe Calderon, has produced few results. Between the date of its foundation and November 2008 this Special Court to investigate crimes committed against journalists (FEADP) under the auspices of the justice ministry (Procuraduria General de la Republica) has had 274 cases referred to it. It has handled only 88 and produced results in only three cases. Worst of all, it has frequently closed the file on the most serious ones, particularly those in which governors or their associates are suspected, systematically ruling out any link between the death of or attack on a journalist and their media work. This has especially turned out to be the case in killings in Oaxaca in the south of the country. On the legal front, there have been two major advances to notch up to the start of the Felipe Calderon presidency: decriminalisation of press offences at the federal level, promulgated on 12 April 2007, and the federalisation of murders and offences committed against journalists. This law, unanimously approved in the chamber of deputies on 2 April 2009, is awaiting approval by the Senate.