Mexican government approves emergency budget for protection mechanism for journalists through end of 2018

The outgoing government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has assigned 75 million Mexican pesos (US $4 million) to the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists and ensured its operation through the end of the year.

By ProtoplasmaKid [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

The announcement was made by representatives of the Advisory Council and beneficiaries of the Mechanism during a Sept. 20 press conference. The Mechanism was set to run out of funds at the end of September.

Between June and July of this year, the Mechanism had requested 126 million Mexicano pesos from the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit so that the Unit for the Defense of Human Rights could continue to operate after September.

Regarding the lack of budget, which the Mechanism called attention to at the end of August, its head, Patricia Colchero Aragonés, explained in an interview to Excelsior TV that the entity has an average monthly expenditure of 20 million Mexican pesos (US $1 million). Colchero said that without a budget, there would be more than 700 beneficiaries – among them 50 collectives – who would be left without the 3,500 security measures that the Mechanism implements to protect them.

The Advisory Council of the Mechanism also said at the press conference that the Budget Committee of the Chamber of Deputies and the incoming government of President-elect Manuel López Obrador should "grant a sufficient budget, as well as guarantee its transparent use and the strengthening of the Mechanism in its structure,” according to Periodistas de a Pie.

They also criticized that Peña Nieto has not fulfilled the commitment he made on May 17, 2017 before the National Conference of Governors (Conago, for its acronym in Spanish), the National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) and other embassies and international organizations, which was to strengthen the Mechanism institutionally and allocate more funds, El Tiempo Digital reported.

Jan-Albert Hootsen, representative in Mexico of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), expressed via Twitter that the Mexican Congress and the incoming government must address "not just more money for the Mechanism, but more transparency, a more comprehensive approach to human rights, security and combating impunity.”

Lucía Lagunes, a member of the organization Communication and Information of Women (Cimac) said during the Advisory Council’s press conference that the fundamental problem is not giving the Mechanism more money, but that the State must guarantee that journalists and human rights defenders "can do their job without risking their lives," according to Animal Político.

The Mechanism has been suffering significant cuts in its budget since 2016, the year in which the Government assigned it 77 percent less funds compared to the previous period.