IAPA Midyear Meeting 2016
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
April 8-11

This was one of the periods with the greatest number of attacks on media outlets and journalists. Four journalists were killed: Moisés Dagdug Lutzow, Anabel Flores Salazar, Reinel Martínez Cerqueda and Marcos Hernández Bautista.

According to data from the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), 109 journalists were killed between 2000 and January 31, 2016; 20 journalists have disappeared since 2005; and 48 violent attacks on media outlets have been reported since 2006.

A journalist or media outlet was attacked every 22 hours, a statistic that only reflects documented cases. Many attacks are not reported for fear of reprisals.

Between physical assaults, arbitrary arrests and threats, 165 incidents were perpetrated by state, municipal and, to a lesser extent, federal officials.

Mexico City and the state of Veracruz were the jurisdictions that saw the most attacks with 67 each, followed by 56 in Guerrero, 38 in Puebla, and 35 in Oaxaca. Five jurisdictions account for 66 percent of all attacks.

According to the CNDH, 251 journalists have been displaced from their area of residence as a result of death threats. Most of these journalists move away with no support from the federal government, and sometimes helped by fellow journalists, because the government's protection programs have no credibility.

In a warlike setting such as that which prevails in Veracruz, Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Coahuila and most states, the work of the press is highly bothersome for state and municipal governments—which wield power like true viceroys—and for the drug lords who need to corrupt and deceive those same authorities.

This is behind the increase in the numbers of journalists attacked, disappeared or killed, especially in states with high levels of drug trafficking.

Strikingly, almost all of the victims were subjected to torture and mutilation. In other words, this is about more than merely eliminating a bothersome person; it is also about sending a message, sowing terror, and keeping the press quiet and in line.

One troubling trend is that of violence against female journalists, with 84 such incidents reported in 2015, according to a report by the human rights organization Article 19. After a recent incident that occurred just a few weeks ago, the former mayor and the former police chief of the municipality of Silao, in the state of Guanajuato, were arrested for having ordered the violent attack on Karla Silva Guerrero, a journalist for El Heraldo, in 2014.

The Internet has become a new weapon against women who work as journalists. The medium is being used for acts of intimidation, sexual harassment, threats, highly sexualized smear campaigns, doctored photographs aimed at stigmatizing the victim, and photographs and private material published without the victim's consent.

Of the 30 online attacks documented in 2015 by Article 19, 15 occurred in the state of Puebla, and 14 of those were against the online versions of two print media outlets: 10 against Centro and four against La Jornada de Oriente.

In Puebla, the state government has purchased malicious software and programs specifically designed for illegal surveillance and spying on politicians, journalists and opponents. The Puebla government has been identified as a prominent client of Hacking Team, a company that develops this type of software.

All of the documented cases have something in common: the lack of protection and response from the government, whether due to inaction or a lack of transparency, combined with the fact that most of the perpetrators (135) are government employees, compared to 35 from organized crime and 34 attributed to political parties in 2015.

Internationally, the government boasts about the agency it established to combat attacks on journalists: the Special Prosecutor's Office for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), which is under the Office of the Attorney General. However, FEADLE has achieved no positive results in six years.

The main attacks during this period were as follows:

On January 22, Reinel Martínez Cerqueda, host of several programs on the community radio station El Manantial, was shot and killed in the city of Santiago Laollaga, Oaxaca.

One day earlier, reporter Marcos Hernández Bautista was killed in San Andrés Huaxpaltepec, also in Oaxaca.

On February 8, the body of reporter Anabel Flores Salazar, who had been abducted in Veracruz, was found. Flores is the 17th reporter in Veracruz to be killed in the current six-year term of Governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa.

A few hours after learning of the Flores killing, Álvaro Delgado, a reporter for the newsweekly Proceso, said on Twitter that he had received threatening messages and images warning him that he had been "sentenced" and that orders had already been given to act against him.

One day later, Ezequiel Flores Contreras, a correspondent for Proceso in Guerrero, said that he had received death threats from Roger Arellano Sotelo, a former legislator for the PRD, during a protest outside the state congressional building over the murder of Anabel Flores.

Aranzazú Ayala, a reporter for the online media outlet Lado B in Puebla, received messages accompanied by the hashtag #AniquilaUnPeriodistaPor ("AnnihilateAJournalistFor"), accusing her of having ties with drug trafficking. The account @SoloSoykike, which was used to send the tweets, was then removed. Lado B offered its unconditional support to its reporter.

On February 11, armed individuals burst into the home of Pedro Sala García, a journalist for the newspaper Tabasco Hoy, where they threatened him with a gun and beat him with a pipe.

The reporter survived the attack and was admitted to the regional hospital, where he is being held for observation.

On February 21, Moisés Dagdug Lutzow, a journalist and owner of the XEVX radio station in Tabasco, was found stabbed to death in his home. The state attorney general's office opened an investigation to identify those responsible for the killing.

Dagdug Lutzow was considered in recent months to be one of the most critical voices in radio on social issues. On the final edition of his program De Frente a Tabasco, which was broadcast on radio and digital television, he talked about lynchings and the lack of security in the region.

On March 11, Enrique Benjamín Solís Arzola, the former mayor of Silao, Guanajuato, was arrested for ordering the assault on El Heraldo journalist Karla Silva Guerrero and her companion, Adriana Palacios, at the newspaper's offices on September 4, 2014.

On March 30, Nicasio Aguirre Guerrero, the former police chief of Silao, was also arrested for ordering the assault on Silva Guerrero.

There have been reports, in some cases involving the disappearance of journalists, that the state attorney general's offices and even the federal Office of the Attorney General have failed to provide victims with the information they have requested, such as in the case of journalist Ramón Ángeles Zalpa of Cambio newspaper in Michoacán, who has been missing since April 6, 2010, and that of Sergio Landa Rosado of Diario Cardel in Veracruz, whose whereabouts have been unknown since January 22, 2013.

Some of the flaws identified in the official investigations into the disappearance of journalists are slowness in enacting search protocols, a lack of coordination among authorities, duplication of investigative efforts, a failure to provide specific information, uncertainty in investigative activity, and criminalization of victims.

In February 2016, the National Electoral Institute (INE) opened an investigation after four journalists of TV Azteca and Televisa made "negative" comments on the requirement to interrupt live broadcasts of Pope Francis's visit in order to air spots for the INE, even though it was not during an electoral season. The INE tried to force the television networks to silence their journalists and impose prior restraint on them.

The changes in election laws in 2007 and 2014 require radio and television license holders to donate airtime for electoral advertising, airtime that is administered by the INE, and prohibit the purchase or sale of advertising on radio or television for electoral purposes by parties or individuals. The law also authorizes the INE to sanction the opinions expressed by radio and television journalists.

The case came before a special court of the federal judicial branch, which ruled in favor of the television networks, and the investigation did not proceed. The National Human Rights Commission also issued an amicus curiae brief on the case in support of the journalists' freedom of expression.