Attacks against the Mexican press increase as presidential election approaches

Journalistic organizations in Mexico say that journalists are working in an especially hostile environment as the Sunday, July 1 presidential, congressional, and mayoral elections approach.

A notable increase in attacks against the Mexican press were noted in the months of May and June leading up to the elections. During this time period, five journalists were killed, another three journalists have been reported missing, and two media outlets suffered armed attacks. Not one of these crimes has been solved.

Although authorities say that the majority of attacks against the press come from organized crime, the political climate also has led to armed attacks aimed at intimidating the press before the elections, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Journalists have become the target of physical attacks and threats on the part of politicians' supporters. The most serious attacks have occurred against local media, such as in Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, where a journalist was stabbed and in another case, four photographers were attacked while covering a confrontation between supporters of the PRI political party and students, according to the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics.

National media in the Mexican capital also are at risk. At the end of May, the newspaper Reforma reported that the house of the newspaper's editorial director was raided and theft was not the apparent motive. Also, a renowned columnist for the newspaper El Universal received death threats for publishing criticisms of the PRI presidential candidate, and recently the editorial director the newspaper Milenio was insulted by supporters of the PRD party, reported the newspaper Vanguardia.

The PRI presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, who leads election polls, called for a moment of silence for the nine journalists killed in the state of Veracruz during the past year, and promised to respect freedom of expression if elected, according to Notimex.

However, it remains unclear whether during the next presidential term Mexico will succeed at stopping the attacks against the press and whether the next Mexican government will efficiently apply new laws, one aimed at protecting journalists and the other which allows federal authorities, rather than state and local, to investigate and punish crimes against the press.

In mid-June, the International Press Institute (IPI), the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), and the World Editors Forum (WEF) sent a letter to the three leading presidential candidates asking them for their concrete plans to stop the violence against journalists in Mexico and end the impunity in crimes against journalists, most of which remain unsolved and unpunished.

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.