66 attacks against the press in Mexico registered during first quarter of 2014

By Diego Cruz

Sixty-six aggressions against the Mexican press were registered during the first quarter of 2014 according to a report published April 22 by the freedom of expression and information organization Article 19.

Of these, 23 were physical attacks against journalists and 19 were threats. Nine were cases of intimidation, eight of legal harassment, five arbitrary detentions, one case of defamation and one killing. According to the report, there were 16 more aggressions registered during the months of January through March this year than in the same time period for 2013.

In 39 of the cases, the suspected attackers were public officials, followed by 11 cases with unknown suspects, seven that pointed to civilians, four to members of political parties, three in which the media outlets were suspected and only two where organized crime was deemed to be likely responsible.

The report singled out Veracruz as the most violent state for the press during the first few months of the year, taking into account the killing of reporter Gregorio Jiménez on Feb. 11 and attacks or threats against another ten press workers.

Article 19 also documented “deficiencies and omissions” on the part of authorities charged with investigating these attacks. In Jiménez’s case, the director of the state agency responsible for solving the case said the crime could have been the result of a conflict between the reporter and his neighbor. However, the authorities found the journalist’s body alongside that of a workers' union representative whose own kidnapping Jiménez had previously reported on, suggesting a possible motive related to his work.

In some cases, the actions taken by authorities in response to aggressions did not have much of an effect. After a failed attempt to kidnap one of the owners of newspaper Notivisión (also in Veracruz), Ulises Mejía del Ángel, the suspects were captured but later freed by a local judge’s orders.

Mexico City was the second entity with the most aggressions against freedom of expression, with ten cases of attacks against journalists. In five of these, the suspected aggressors were police from the city’s Public Security Department, which worried Article 19 since the same group was responsible for 60 percent of aggressions in 2013.

The report also mentioned other risk zones, such as the state of Sinaloa, in which workers for the newspaper Noroeste received five threats and attacks related to their investigation on the capture of drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera.

The state of Guerrero had the third largest number of aggressions, with nine documented cases. In three of them, police officers committed the attacks; three others were committed by government officials. In one case, three media organizations were forced to reveal sources consulted for an article due to lawsuits pushed by public legislators.

Regarding security measures taken by the government, the report pointed to the crisis faced by the country's Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists, which has not reviewed more than half the cases it has received. It was recently considered "a failure" by federal officials and in need of restructuring to accomplish its goals.

Article 19 considered the current state of freedom of the press in the country to be worse than last year, though not only due to the increase in attacks.

“The impunity that tends to be present in more than 90 percent of documented cases and the crisis faced by the federal organism in charge of protecting threatened communicators have turned into the best incentives for attacks against the press in Mexico,” the organization said at the end of their report.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.