IAPA welcomes creation of media group in Mexico to counteract violence against journalists

Government institutions commit to improve justice and defend press freedom.

MEXICO CITY; XALAPA, VERACRUZ (September 11, 2019)—An international delegation of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) that for the seventh time in the last few years focused on Mexico was motivated by the creation of a group of the country's news media that committed to fight against the violence that affects journalists, through investigations and alliances with government agencies responsible for administering justice and protecting human rights.

The IAPA mission, led by the organization's president María Elvira Domínguez, held meetings with Secretary of State Olga Sánchez Cordero, Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero, senator and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Executive Secretary Emilio Álvarez Icaza, the Director of Information of the Presidency, Jesús Cantú, National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) President Luis Raúl González Pérez, the Under Secretrary of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of the Foreign Ministry, Martha Delgado Peralta, and Veracruz Governor Cuitláhuac García Jiménez.

IAPA President Domínguez, editor of the Colombian newspaper El País, was appreciative that a group of editors and journalists of the country's most important media committed to create a working group to counteract violence. She said, "Through experience in many countries we know that one of the most effective ways of fighting against violence and impunity in crimes against journalists is through the support, the unity, the commitment and the solidarity among media and journalists."

Following meetings with editors and reporters of more than 30 media in both cities at the headquarters of El Universal and in Xalapa, and under the initiative of the chairs of the IAPA Impunity, Press Freedom and Internet Committees, Juan Francisco Lanz-Duret, Roberto Rock and Martha Ramos, it was informed that the new working group was made up of El Universal, Organización Editorial Mexicana (OEM), Televisa, TV Azteca, Cadena Fórmula, Milenio and La Silla Rota. The group will be joined by more media as it develops its work.

The IAPA and the working group obtained several commitments regarding its functions among which will be re-install a Rapid Response Unit that IAPA had in Mexico to investigate new and old cases, information that was used to present five emblematic cases of murders of journalists before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Héctor Félix Miranda, Víctor Manuel Oropeza, Benjamín Flores González, Alfredo Jiménez Mota and Francisco Ortiz Franco.

The members of the mission also held a meeting with Alejandro Encinas, sub-Secretary of Governance, and with Aarón Mastache, Executive Director of the Mechanism of Protection for Human Rights and Journalists Defenders. The two groups reviewed the effectiveness of this mechanism and the strategy to make it more effective in the light of an ample recommendation issued recently by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of for Human Rights. Encinas and Mastache committed to open up spaces for the IAPA and in particular the Mexican journalists to widen the discussion on how to improve protection for the profession and the news media.

In the face of the institutional weakness, the justice crisis and the lack of effectiveness of the mechanism of protection of journalists that the IAPA noted at each of the meetings, Attorney General Gertz Manero invited IAPA and the working group to participate in the criminal action of the murder cases in order to obtain information for following up the cases. The CNDH agreed to work in joint action and hand over periodic information on the advance of the cases in the country's new 33 autonomous district attorneys' offices that have replaced the federal attorney general's offices which previously depended on the Executive Branch.

With Senator Icaza the delegation showed optimism of knowing that in Congress there exists a legislative bill that would separate the defense of human rights activists and of the journalists, it being understood that this conjunction has been ineffective at the moment of defending and seeking justice for both groups. With Veracruz Governor García the delegation scheduled other working visits in order to create better mechanisms of reporting on aggression in the face of lack of confidence of the journalists towards the authorities, public campaigns on the value of press freedom and freedom of expression in a democracy, improve the system of protection of journalists and investigate in-depth the murder of reporter Jorge Celestino Ruiz which occurred on August 2 and that of another score of homicides that have made Veracruz the most lethal state for the practice of journalism.

The IAPA also stated its concern over the stigmatization of journalists from the highest ranks of power under the risk that the disqualification incites physical aggressions. In this regard it was pleasing that soon the national Executive Branch will initiate a campaign of public education in favor of freedom of expression. This activity comes as a response to a report of the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights that made 104 recommendations to strengthen the protection mechanism for journalists and press freedom in general.

The working group of editors and reporters is an old wish of the IAPA for strengthening the practice of journalism in Mexico which was shown in two decades of work in this country. Always under the auspices of the Mexican editors the IAPA contributed to organizing meetings of journalists, editors and media owners, members and non-members of the institution, who committed to work jointly and improve the work and professional conditions. The bases of work were gathered in IAPA's Declarations of Puebla (2011), Durango (2010), Mexico City (2009), Mexico City (2008), Nuevo Laredo (2006), Hermosillo (2005) and Tijuana (2002).

In addition to Domínguez the IAPA mission was made up of Silvia Miró Quesada, editor of News Services of El Comercio, Lima, Peru; Eduardo Quirós, president of Grupo Editorial El Siglo and La Estrella, Panama City, Panama; Miguel Franjul, editor of Listín Diario, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Wendy Santana de Franjul, journalist with Listín Diario, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Ricardo Trotti, IAPA Executive Director, Miami, Florida. At the local level the delegation was made up of Roberto Rock, Martha Ramos, Francisco Torres Vázquez, president of OEM, Carlos Benavides, managing editor of El Universal, and María Idalia Gómez, IAPA collaborator.

Since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador assumed his post in December 2018 12 journalists have been murdered. According to IAPA statistics between 1987 and 2019 152 journalists have been murdered and 21 remain missing.

The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.