Miami (February 4, 2022) – The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) today sent a letter to the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, urging him to suspend the stigmatizing speech against the press, fearing that could be giving "carte blanche" to silence journalists.
The President of the IAPA, Jorge Canahuati, and the President of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, lamented the murder of four Mexican journalists in January. In the letter, they encourage the President to take necessary decisions to halt the violence and "suspend all stigmatizing speech against the media and reporters."
Canahuati, executive President of Grupo Opsa from Honduras, and Jornet, journalistic director of the newspaper La Voz del Interior, from Argentina, urge the President "to ratify" his "full commitment to freedom of expression." They also encourage the President to "avoid attacks, aggressions, and insults that end up granting crime carte blanche to silence those who denounce the advance of drug trafficking and corruption."
"When the voice of a journalist is silenced," the message adds, "freedom of expression is stifled, citizen debate is aborted, the demand for justice is extinguished, and attempts to investigate corruption, organized crime, and narco-crime are neutralized."
The full text of the letter is as follows:
"Dear Mr. President:
With great alarm and renewed concern, we observe the acceleration of the wave of violence that is shaking Mexican journalism and shaking the citizens of that country and all of America.
January was already one of the most tragic periods in living memory, one that marked a point of commotion that should mobilize all of society to say enough is enough. Enough violence, enough impunity.
But there was still more. And on the last day of the month, unknown perpetrators -although all indications are linked to organized crime- claimed one more victim. Thus, 2022 already accumulates almost half the number of murdered journalists registered last year. It is a period of high violence against the press.
Figures collected by international journalism organizations indicate that almost 150 journalists have been killed so far this century, at an average of seven per year. And in the current administration, there are more than 50 murders perpetrated against press personnel, with the aggravating factor that less than 10 percent of the perpetrators have been convicted.
Because of this reality, which the President is not unaware of, we understand that there is an urgent need for concrete measures to end the wave of violence and impunity.
In the current and previous administrations, it has been repeatedly said that "protection mechanisms for journalists will be reinforced." Still, all the actions implemented have proven insufficient and ineffective so far.
The political class must become aware that freedom of expression is under attack. And if this happens, Mexican democracy is in danger.
That is why society must also assume that the murders of journalists are a scourge that must end and that in no way can they be naturalized.
Several voices minimize the fact, arguing that nobody claims the thousands of deaths that Mexico regrets every month. Of course, it is true: every life is worth; every person is essential. But when a journalist or a social leader is murdered, it is not a person who is killed: it is a voice that represents the claims of hundreds and thousands of people.
When the voice of a journalist is silenced, freedom of expression is stifled, citizen debate is aborted, the demand for justice is extinguished, and attempts to investigate corruption, organized crime, and narco-crime are neutralized.
It is why we are asking you to face the seriousness of the hour with all the necessary energy and decision. In this framework, you suspend all stigmatizing speech against media and reporters. Because this practice, in itself a violation of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression approved in 2000 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, represents an incentive for the violent to unleash their murderous fury on defenseless journalists.
Indeed, journalists make mistakes and perhaps do not professionally exercise their activity. But political leaders must always be open to criticism, even when it bothers them; they must guarantee transparency in their actions; they must respond to every inaccuracy with more and better information than with insults.
When the press is disqualified, attacked, and confronted as a political strategy, the door is open to the violent and intolerant.
Denigrating the press from the top of power is not a dialectic game, verbal fencing without consequences. On the contrary, it is a clear position, which, whatever its basis, contradicts any assertion that the State will put a stop to those who want to silence journalists.
We urge you, Mr. President, to ratify your total commitment to freedom of expression and freedom of the press and that your administration avoid attacks, aggressions, and insults that end up granting crime carte blanche to silence those who denounce the advance of drug trafficking and corruption.
Without further ado and remaining at your disposal to analyze possible in-depth measures to guarantee the free exercise of journalistic activity, and especially the personal safety of those who practice it, we greet you respectfully."
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.