Monday, September 12, 2011
Freedom of Expression- Another Casualty of Organised Crime in Mexico
On September 1st, the bodies of two prominent journalists were discovered in a park in Mexico City, with their hands and feet bound and the ropes left around their necks. Ana Maria Yarce Viveros, founder of the weekly magazine Contralínea, and Rocio González Trápaga, a freelance journalist, were reportedly kidnapped as they left their offices and then strangled, in what appears to be a drug cartel killing.
The brutal double murder comes just one week after the murder of Humberto Millán Salazar, a presenter and editor of the online paper ‘A- Discusíon’ in Sinaloa province, and brings the total number of journalists killed in Mexico since 2000 to eighty. This figure does not even include those reporters who are still missing after having been kidnapped. Figures from the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico show that only one in every one hundred crimes in Mexico is actually reported, indicating that there is a strong possibility many more journalists have been threatened, kidnapped, and murdered, without it having been brought to international attention. It is also worth considering the fact that the murder of a journalist is still not considered a federal crime (despite continued efforts by activists over the years) and therefore that investigations are usually conducted by local officials, many of whom are themselves subject to the intimidation of drug cartels. The corruption of officials has meant that even if crimes are reported, it has become increasingly unlikely that the perpetuators will be brought to justice.
Director of the International Press Institute, Alison Bethel McKenzie recently described the situation in Mexico as ‘out of control’ with the perpetuators ‘operating with impunity’- many now see officials as part of the problem. In fact, the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) confirms that over ninety per cent of press- related crimes over the past decade have gone unpunished in Mexico. The risks that journalists run when covering issues of a controversial nature are monumental, indeed; the magazine of one of the most recent victims, Ana Maria Yarce Viveros’ had been investigating controversial issues for more than ten years, even in the face of threats from both the cartels and the judiciary.
In spite of the Agreement on Safety, which proposed a constitutional amendment to safeguard the rights of journalists back in June 2008, little executive action has been taken, and the CPJ now describes part of a journalist’s job in Mexico as choosing between ‘silence or death’. The lack of official action is due in part to the corruption that breeds even in the central government, stemming from the ever- apparent links between politicians and criminal gangs. One particularly devastating consequence of violent crime against journalists is their right to freedom of expression. Self censorship is fast becoming the most sensible option, and journalists in one region claim that in order to avoid consequences, they must altogether ignore topics such as kidnapping and extortion. It is clear that until the federalisation of anti- press crimes is implemented, the freedom of journalists will continue to be infringed, and Mexico will edge closer still to the death of impartial reporting.