Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, July 14, 2017

Threatened journalists and information

Information and a free press are usually seen as vital to the existence of a free state. What happens if the press is discredited or if journalists are killed off? Is controlling the press necessary for an authoritarian system?

Is this a case of limited state capacity? Or is the state actively suppressing journalism? Maybe the title question should be "Does Mexico want to save its journalists?"

Can Mexico save its journalists?
Journalists are being murdered in Mexico and this is nothing new. This is one of the most dangerous countries for reporters, rights groups say, and more die here than in any other nation at peace.

But even for a place so used to drugs-related violence and organised crime, the recent bloodshed has been shocking.

Seven journalists have been killed in the country so far this year, most shot by gunmen in broad daylight. Yet virtually all cases of attacks on the press end up unsolved and, in many, corrupt officials are suspected of partnering with criminals…

Since 2000, at least 106 journalists have been killed across Mexico, according to rights group Article 19. Exact numbers are hard to come by as investigations often get nowhere and different studies apply different criteria in counting the dead…

In 2010, pressure from campaigners led to the creation of a special office of the federal prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression, known as the Feadle, which investigates attacks on journalists.

But the authorities have often ruled that the victims themselves are not journalists or that the incidents have no connection to their work, according to critics.

Like last month. When the charred remains of Salvador Adame, the head of a TV station in the western state of Michoacán, were found, state prosecutors said that the case had to do with personal disputes, possibly a love affair, angering relatives and campaigners…

[Journalist Ismael Bolorquez said,] "The [Feadle] doesn't have resources or teams to investigate. Our system of protection of journalists doesn't work... The government's policies to protect us are a failure."

The result is that journalism itself has become a victim. "Investigative journalism in many places in Mexico is just impossible to be exercised," said Carlos Luria, CPJ's senior programme co-ordinator for the Americas.

"There are no guarantees, no condition, no protection, there is an absence of the state. This is decimating journalism in Mexico."…

Ana Cristina Ruelas, Article 19's director for Mexico and Central America [asserted that]… Corruption is rife in Mexico, and rogue police and politicians were the suspects in more than half of the incidents against the media in the last six years… And most cases were never looked into.

"The state doesn't investigate itself. There is a direct link between the level of impunity and corruption," Ms Ruelas said. "This impunity allows the aggressors to continue attacking the press in broad daylight."…

Distrust grew even further last month, after the New York Times accused the Mexican government of spying on several top journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders by hacking their phones with spyware meant to be used against criminals and terrorists - a claim the Mexican presidency denied.
No silence

"It's very hard to connect the words of the presidency with actions because until now we haven't found a clear reflection of these words in actions that provide results," said Ms Ruelas, from Article 19.

Reporters, however, say the latest killings prove that their work is more urgent than ever: "No to silence".

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