Mexican government admits "failure" of protection mechanism for journalists, promises restructuring

By Diego Cruz

Mexico's Secretary of Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong called the country's Mechanism to Protect Journalists a “failure” that will require restructuring to carry out its responsibilities as established by the law, Proceso magazine reported.

Christophe Deloire, secretary general of international press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), shared Osorio Chong's comments in an April 3 press conference after meeting with federal government representatives in Mexico City to discuss the climate of violence and insecurity faced by journalists and the difficulties the Mechanism had encountered dealing with them.

According to Deloire, Osorio Chong admitted to the Mechanism’s faults, saying it had failed at its core mission, but added that the protection of journalists was as much the responsibility of the federal government as it was of state governments. Osorio Chong said the Department of Interior would restructure the protective body with the help of civil society organizations, reported the website Animal Político.

“The time frames for intervention as established by the law were never respected, the necessary funds were not available and the potential beneficiaries ended up feeling a profound disappointment,” said Deloire about the Mechanism’s faults.

The Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists was previously criticized for not providing the necessary protection needed to keep communicators safe. Recently, it was also revealed that more than half the cases of threats and attacks against journalists received by the Mechanism in the past two years had not been reviewed yet.

Additionally, the Mechanism lost its leadership on March 17 when director Juan Carlos Gutiérrez Contreras resigned, a position that has yet to be filled, according to Animal Político.

Despite promising to improve the agency, Osorio Chong did not provide any specific dates for the Mechanism’s restructuring, said RSF correspondent Balbina Flores Martínez, who accompanied Deloire during the meetings, according to Proceso.

Deloire said there have been 89 crimes against journalists in Mexico since 2000, with 17 reporters still missing and three killed during President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government. For this reason, the nation is ranked number 152 in a list of 180 countries in matters of freedom of expression.

This is due to “numerous attacks against freedom of the press, as a consequence of media consolidation, the discretionary distribution of official advertising, violence against journalists and the impunity that allows these crimes to be committed,” Deloire said.

RSF’s secretary general believed the Mechanism’s faults indicated the Mexican government was more concerned with the country’s international image and reputation than with defending human rights, saying this demonstrated an attitude of “simulation and hypocrisy,” according to newspaper La Jornada.

RSF said it would follow up on SEGOB’s efforts to restructure the Mechanism to Protect Journalists in order ensure the necessary changes occurred.

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.