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Mexico closes 2017 as the most insecure country for journalists along with Syria

Mexico closes the year 2017 at the head of the classification of journalists killed with 12 dead, the highest number in its history, to be the most dangerous country for the journalistic union together with Syria with the same number of murders.

While Reporters Without Borders (RSF) recorded a global decline in crime against reporters in the world, with which 2017 has been less deadly for the profession of the last 14 years, Mexico stood out as an exception to maintain its upward trend.

Of the 65 murders of journalists in the world, a dozen took place in Mexico, where drug traffickers and organized crime threaten, extort, assault and execute journalists who report on their activities.

According to RSF, Mexico is “the most dangerous country in peace in the world for reporters” with the same death toll as Syria (12), followed by Afghanistan (9) and Iraq (8).

“It is very sad that every year is always the most violent,” said member Juan Vázquez, member of the Article 19 organization, who warned that the current mandate of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto could be more deadly than that of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), who recorded 48 murders of journalists.

According to Article 19, dedicated to the defense of freedom of expression, there are already 39 murders of communicators during the presidency of Peña Nieto. Four journalists died in 2013, five in 2014, seven in 2015, 11 in 2016 and 12 in 2017.

“The government often points out the murders of journalists as collateral damage to drug trafficking, but the authorities have a lot of responsibility,” argued Vázquez, who charged that 99% of crimes against reporters go unpunished.

From Article 19, they maintain that the Mexican Prosecutor’s Office avoids exhaustively investigating the murders of journalists and that, systematically, it separates the journalistic activity of the mobile from the crime, and attributes it to other reasons.

Precisely, the Attorney General of the eastern state of Veracruz said that Gumaro Pérez, last reporter killed in Mexico in 2017, could have had links with organized crime.

Whether this version is confirmed or not, the truth is that Veracruz is the deadliest Mexican state for the journalistic union with 24 murdered since 2000, mostly under the government of Javier Duarte (20010-2016), prosecuted for corruption and crime organized

The profile of journalists murdered this year in Mexico often coincides with that of reporters who write for small local media, work in the field and specialize in political chronicles and political corruption.

The death on May 15 of the renowned journalist Javier Valdez, specialized in drug trafficking, in Culiacán, capital of the northwestern state of Sinaloa, had a wide impact both inside and outside of Mexico.

Activists, colleagues and relatives organized protests to condemn the murder, denounce the inefficiency of the Prosecutor’s Office and demand justice for Valdez, author of the book “Narcoperiodismo”, which narrates the difficulties of reporters to cover drug trafficking in Mexico.

In addition to Valdez and Pérez, this year have lost the lives of Mexican journalists Cecilio Pineda, Ricardo Monlui, Miroslava Breach, Maximino Rodriguez, Filiberto Alvarez, Jonathan Rodriguez, Candido Rios, Salvador Adame, Luciano Rivera and Honduran Edwin Rivera.

Both the United Nations (UN) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) have strongly condemned these crimes and are preparing a joint report after conducting a follow-up visit on press freedom in Mexico.

Both organizations urged the Government to “increase resources for the protection of journalists” and lamented the ineffectiveness of the current mechanisms of protection for journalists.

Pineda, Adame and Ríos, for example, had resorted to government protection mechanisms that could not guarantee their integrity.

“The protection mechanisms are inefficient and insufficient,” said Vázquez, who recalled that some journalists have detected failures in the operation of the “panic button”, a remote control system by which reporters give the alarm when they feel threatened.

Beyond the 12 murdered in 2017, the scourge of violence against journalists in Mexico extends to a host of aggressions such as threats, intimidation, physical attacks or deprivation of liberties.

Article 19 estimates that of the 277 attacks that occurred this year, 53% were committed by officials such as police and mayors, so there is no interest in investigating them.

The historical figure of journalists killed in 2017 is part of a context of increased violence in Mexico, which between January and November registered more than 23,000 malicious homicides, the highest figure in the last 20 years.

But if the crimes against journalists have a special repercussion, it is because, as Vázquez assured, “if they kill a journalist, they kill the truth”. The truth in Mexico was very much touched this 2017. (efe)

* Eduard Ribas

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