MEXICO CITY – Mexico is closing out 2017 – tied with Syria – as the world’s most dangerous country for journalists, with 12 reporters murdered during the year, the highest yearly total in its history.
Twelve journalists also were killed in wartorn Syria during 2017.
Although Reporters Without Borders (RSF) registered a global decline in crimes against reporters in 2017, with the year being the least deadly for journalists in the last 14 years, Mexico stood out as an exception with a rising trend of killings.
Of the 65 journalists killed worldwide in 2017, 12 died in Mexico, where drug traffickers and organized crime threaten, extort, attack and execute journalists who report on their criminal activities.
According to RSF, Mexico and Syria both had 12 reporters killed this year, followed by Afghanistan with nine and Iraq with eight.
“It’s very sad that each year is always the most violent,” a member of the Articulo 19 organization, Juan Vazquez, told EFE, warning that the current administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto would be more deadly for journalists than that of Felipe Calderon, who governed from 2006-2012, during which 48 journalists were murdered.
According to Articulo 19, which focuses on defending freedom of expression, 39 journalists and communicators have been killed so far during Peña Nieto’s term in office, with four dying in 2013, five in 2014, seven in 2015, 11 in 2016 and 12 in 2017.
Vazquez said that 99 percent of the crimes against reporters are never prosecuted and, thus, the perpetrators have been able to act with impunity, and Articulo 19 claims that the Mexican Attorney General’s office does not thoroughly investigate journalists’ murders and that it systematically denies that journalistic activity is the motive for the crime, attributing reporters’ deaths to other reasons.
Veracruz is the Mexican state that has proven to be the most dangerous for journalists, with 24 reporters being killed there since 2000, most of them during the 2010-2016 governorship of Javier Duarte, who is facing charges for corruption and organized crime.
Both the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have energetically condemned crimes against journalists in Mexico and are preparing a joint report after visiting the country to look into freedom of the press there.
Vazquez said that “The protection mechanisms (for journalists) are ineffective and insufficient,” noting that some reporters have detected faults in the functioning of the “panic button” system, a remote control mechanism whereby reporters alert authorities when they feel threatened.
Apart from the 12 murders of journalists this year, violence against reporters in Mexico also includes countless instances of threats, intimidation, physical attacks and deprivation of freedom, with Articulo 19 saying that of the 277 reported attacks this year, 53 percent were committed by police and mayors.
The historically high figures for violence against journalists come within the context of an overall increase in violence in Mexico, which between January-November registered more than 23,000 murders, the largest number in the past 20 years.