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Mexico commits to improve protection of journalists during UNESCO seminar

19 November 2019

A fund to foster investigative journalism managed independently by UNESCO; measures to improve journalists’ social security; and the commitment to take into account the 104 recommendations of the UN regarding the Mexican protection mechanism, were among the key commitments from the Mexican government at the international seminar marking the International Day for Ending Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI).

The seminar "Strengthening regional cooperation to end impunity for crimes and attacks against journalists in Latin America,” organized on 7 November in Mexico City, brought together UN experts, NGOs, journalists and the Mexican government." A society where journalists live in fear of reporting certain facts to the public is a society that cannot make informed decisions; it is a society that lives in the darkness of ignorance and cannot freely decide its future," said Moez Chakchouk, Assistant-Director General for Communication and Information at UNESCO.

Martha Delgado, Mexico’s Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Jesús Ramirez, General Coordinator of Social Communication and Spokesperson of the Presidency and David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, also delivered opening remarks at this one-day event that also brought together judicial operators, National Human Rights Commissions, civil society, and regional actors such as the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).

Highlighting Mexico’s work to address 3000 recommendations on human rights, Martha Delgado stated that Mexico must be a nation of freedoms, and one of the pillars of democracy is freedom of expression. In this regard, David Kaye stated that violence and impunity cannot go hand in hand and emphasized the need to increase resources aimed at the security and prosecution of those guilty of murders against journalists, as well as the implementation of agreements on human rights.

Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, Spokesperson of the Presidency, reiterated Mexico’s commitment to the right to information, and to face the country’s challenges regarding human rights and impunity. He officially announced the creation of a Fund to support investigative journalism, which will be administered independently by UNESCO, and mentioned that a social security program for freelance journalists will soon be launched, in order to address their precarious working conditions. The Spokesperson of the Presidency also underlined the Mexican government’s commitment to take into account the 104 recommendations of an independent assessment from the OHCHR, in order to strengthen Mexico’s national protection mechanism for human rights defenders and journalists, established in 2012.

The seminar dedicated one of its four round tables to the impunity of attacks against journalists in Mexico. Participants included Ana Cristina Ruelas, Director of ARTICLE19 in Mexico; Adela Navarro, Director of Zeta weekly in Tijuana; Aarón Mastache, Head of the Unit for the Defense of Human Rights at the Ministry of Interior; Jan Jarab, Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico, and Luis Raúl González Pérez, former President of the National Human Rights Commission. The moderator was renowned journalist Carmen Aristegui, anchor of Aristegui at CNN en Español.

The international seminar also explored the interest in establishing a multi-stakeholder regional forum to discuss more regularly the issue of protecting journalists and fighting impunity. International experts such as Ricardo Pérez Manrique, judge at the Interamerican Court of Human Rights; María Teresa Ronderos, from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ); Tatiana Guasti, from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Aimée Vega, President of the Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMAG); Emmanuel Colombie, Director for Latin America of Reporters Without Borders and Saskia Baas, from Free Press Unlimited, discussed the issue of impunity for crimes against journalists throughout the day.

The event also marked the opening of the Latin American Congress of Investigative Journalism (COLPIN). The prestigious conference was supported by UNESCO and took place from 7 to 10 November in Mexico City. Within the framework of IDEI, a coalition of 17 international press freedom organizations (ISCO SOJ Coalition) visited Mexico from 2 to 8 November to address the situation of impunity for crimes against journalists.

This was the first time that Mexico hosted the series of seminars organized by UNESCO to commemorate IDEI. The seminar in Mexico City was part of the series of regional seminars held in San José, Costa Rica, in 2014, Europe (Strasbourg, France) in 2015, Africa (Arusha, Tanzania) in 2016, Asia (Colombo, Sri Lanka) in 2017 and the Middle East (Beirut, Lebanon) in 2018.

Killings of journalists around the world

More than 1,000 journalists have been murdered in the last 12 years, 19 of them in Mexico throughout 2019. Almost 9 out of 10 cases of killings of journalists go unpunished. These figures were published in the latest UNESCO report "Intensified Attacks, New Defences," released on the occasion of IDEI on November 2.

The report highlights an 18% increase in killings of journalists in the last five years (2014-2018) compared to the previous five-year period. According to the report, 26% of the killings occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, making the region the second most dangerous for journalists. The report also points out that, in the last two years, 55% of killings of journalists occurred in countries without conflict. This trend reflects the changing nature of violence against journalists, who are increasingly silenced for reporting on issues of corruption, crime and politics.

The seminar was supported by the Multi-Donor Programme of Freedom of Expression and  Safety of Journalists

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