The controversy between the president of Mexico and the Mexico and Central America Office of Article 19 was a result of a report on human rights issued by the US State Department on March 30, in which, citing information from the NGO, accuses the director of the official Mexican agency, Notimex, Sanjuana Martínez Montemayor, of censoring journalists. The report noted that Martínez Montemayor ordered journalists not to publish content about certain institutions and officials.
In an attempt to discredit and question the work of Article 19 Mexico and Central America, López Obrador said that the organization is financed by "foreign organizations, and even by the U.S. State Department". Article 19 Mexico and Central America indicates on its website that its operations are financed "through multi-year funds, granted mainly by private foundations and governments of North America and Western Europe."
The president of the IAPA, Jorge Canahuati, said that "it causes surprise and concern that President López Obrador tries to delegitimize an organization invoking principles of non-interference or sovereignty and foreign funds, which contravenes universal principles on human rights, in addition to pacts and policies accepted by the democratic states that go back to the creation of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of the People of 1948, on which was based the creation of the Inter-American System of Human Rights in our continent."
Canahuati, CEO of the Opsa Media Group, Honduras, said that the IAPA supports the rigorous and credible work that Article 19 does on freedom of expression and added: "We would have liked that instead of attacking an institution, the president of Mexico would have asked for an investigation into what was reported, to confirm or not the veracity of the complaint, especially because it is a problem in a public media institution such as Notimex."
The president of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, added: "This attitude of President López Obrador worries us because the tendency to discredit the credibility of organizations that defend and promote human rights is re-emerging, either because of the way in which they investigate the facts or because of the origin of the financing funds."
Jornet, director of the Argentine newspaper La Voz del Interior, added that López Obrador's questions about financing issues do not represent a novelty in the continent and that those same arguments have been used by governments that do not like criticism or supervision of human rights internationally.
In December, the Daniel Ortega regime enacted the Foreign Agents Regulation law to "control financial operations and activities carried out by associations, national or foreign organizations, to put an end to foreign interference in the internal affairs of Nicaragua". This measure obliged many NGO, fearing reprisals, to stop their operations. Similar laws had been enacted in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.
In addition to Article 19, the U.S. State Department report mentions Aristegui Noticias show and the website Signa Lab as sources of information on the employment situation in the Notimex agency. The document also addresses cases of violence, harassment, stigmatization of journalists, murders and impunity, among other topics that affect freedom of expression in Mexico.
IAPA is a non-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 the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.