After latest journalist killings, the media questions whether freedom of expression exists in Mexico

Amidst the new wave of violence against the Mexican press, including the killing of two journalists in two weeks, the discovery of a journalist's body in a secret grave, and the kidnapping of a reporter, journalists and press freedom organizations are doubting whether freedom of expression truly exists in Mexico.

The killing of Notiver journalist Miguel Ángel López Velasco and his wife and son --who also was a journalist for the same media outlet as his father-- at the hands of an armed group struck a chord among the press in Mexico, where roughly 70 journalists have been killed and more than a dozen disappeared since 2000.

Pablo Hiriart wrote in Etcétera that the massacre of the López Velasco family reinforces the Freedom House report published in May that places Mexico on the list of countries without a free or independent press. Freedom of expression is not only about the government letting you speak and write, but also the assurance that "no one will die for what they think or know," Hiriart wrote.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) went further, demanding that governments take concrete actions to "put an end to the violence that is eroding, mutilating and killing the press," said IAPA president Gonzalo Marroquín.

Notiver, the largest newspaper in the Mexican state of Veracruz on the Gulf Coast, suspended its Tuesday edition as a "sign of pain and a form of silent protest" because of the killing, according to Univisión. Self-censorship has become a common reaction among media in the most violent regions of Mexico.

In a story headlined "Another Journalist Killed in Mexico: Where is the State?," Crónica Viva quoted the Federation of Latin American and Caribbean Journalists (FEPALC in Spanish) which criticized the Mexican government, saying it "appears inert in the face of crime."

In spite of the committment of authorities and the media to find better measures to protect journalists in Mexico -- especially those that cover the most violent regions because of drug trafficking -- the attacks against the press have not stopped.

While FEPALC has urged Mexican authorities not to separate crimes associated with the exercise of journalism and just to investigate who is killing journalists and why, Nohemí Vargas Anaya wrote in Cambio de Michoacán that after so many investigations without results, "we don't believe you (authorities) anymore. Do you believe them?" Vargas Anaya also expressed concern over the effect of the current violence on future generations of journalists in Mexico: "What journalist role models are the students who want to dedicate themselves to this profession following?...When a journalist is killed or disappeared, it is not just a life that is lost. Together we lose, little by little, our freedom."

See this Knight Center map for more information about threats to journalists in Mexico.

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.