MEXICO CITY – Officials accounted for 53 percent of acts of aggression against journalists in 2016 and pose “the biggest threat to freedom of expression in Mexico,” a representative of press freedom watchdog Article 19 said on Thursday.
“It’s necessary that the state acknowledge what the problem is,” the group’s director for Mexico and Central America, Ana Cristina Ruelas, told EFE during the presentation of Article 19’s annual report.
Contrary to President Enrique Peña Nieto’s assertions in international forums, it is not organized crime that represents the main threat to freedom of expression in Mexico, but “public officials, agents of the state,” she said.
Article 19 documented 426 instances of aggression against journalists in Mexico last year, including 11 homicides.
All but 0.25 percent of such crimes go unpunished, according to the group, which takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Ruelas said that the level of impunity is so high because authorities are the culprits in more than half the cases.
“The state doesn’t want to investigate itself and doesn’t want to know the level of the problem,” she said.
In 2010, Mexico created a special unit in the Attorney General’s Office to handle crimes against press freedom.
Since its founding, that office, known by the acronym Feadle, has brought prosecutions in 48 murders of journalists, securing just three convictions.
And even when the killers are punished, the people who ordered the murders continue to enjoy complete impunity, Ruelas said.
On hand for the presentation of the Article 19 report was Catalina Botero, a former rapporteur on freedom of expression for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
“There is not the slightest doubt that Mexico is the most dangerous country in the region for the exercise of journalism,” she said.
Botero urged Feadle to be more aggressive in asserting jurisdiction over attacks on reporters, contending that state and municipal prosecutors tend “to manipulate evidence.”