Mexican protection mechanism for journalists set to run out of funding, spurring press advocates to action

The Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists will run out of funding at the end of September, mobilizing press advocates to demand the federal government guarantee resources for the program to continue.

(Photo: EneasMx via Creative Commons)

One of the main organizations that has spoken out against the lack of allocation of resources is the Mexican Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The office asked the government to protect the lives of the more than 700 beneficiaries of the Mechanism who would be left without any protection as of October due to the recent exhaustion of the trust that backs it.

The UN representative in Mexico, Jan Jarab, said in late August that the existence of the Mechanism has saved lives of journalists and human rights defenders in Mexico. However, in recent years, the Mechanism has experienced a series of budget cuts that have limited its resources to effectively protect threatened journalists who ask for its help.

A joint report on the situation of human rights in Mexico, published in the middle of this year by the Special Rapporteurs for the rights to freedom of opinion and expression of the UN and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), urged the Mexican State to allocate more human and material resources to the Mechanism.

"An ambitious Government effort to increase the Mechanism’s capabilities and budget will serve the goal of better protection and would also send a message of political will to make journalist safety a national priority,” the report said.

In a Sept. 5 press release, the Advisory Council of the Mechanism demanded that President Enrique Peña Nieto fulfill his commitment to strengthen the structure of the Mechanism and its allocation of a budget to guarantee the work of human rights defenders and journalists under protection.

According to the Council's press release, in 2016 the Mechanism suffered a 77 percent cut in its budget compared to the previous year. "This governmental omission puts at risk the life and physical and emotional integrity of hundreds of human rights defenders and journalists who saw their work truncated after physical attacks, attempted murder, death threats, defamation campaigns, disappearances, homicides, femicides, among other types of aggression, coming from different actors," the release read.

The head of the Mechanism, Patricia Colchero Aragonés, said in a television program that among the 702 beneficiaries of the preventive measures provided by the mechanism, there are 50 collectives from all over the country. "We are spending 20 million pesos a month to be able to pay for all the measures. (...) Last year they did not give us the resources to operate but we had a remnant from the previous years," she said.

Colchero confessed that she hopes the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit will provide resources in the month of September. "It would be terrible to have to remove the more than 3,500 protective measures that we currently implement. I think there is much ignorance of the Government itself of what is done in the Mechanism," she said.

Halfway through this year, the Mechanism warned about the insufficient budget and the depletion of its resources in the coming weeks. According to the Mechanism, the lack of a budget would not only generate non-compliance with the preventive and security measures of its current beneficiaries, but also the impossibility of new people receiving benefits.

Likewise, between June and July, the Mechanism reported that it unsuccessfully requested 126 million Mexican pesos from the Ministry of Finance so that the Unit for the Defense of Human Rights of the Mechanism can continue to function.

Due to the imminent lack of resources for the Mechanism, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) addressed a letter to the current head of the Ministry of the Interior of Mexico. It reminded him of the commitment made by President Peña Nieto, who promised the Committee to adequately provide the Mechanism with the necessary funds to continue operating. The organization reported that this commitment was not fully implemented.

The National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) reported on Aug. 28 that it will send an official letter to the Ministry of Finance to grant the budget that the Mechanism requires, El Universal reported. The president of the CNDH, Luis Raúl González Pérez, declared that while every crime or aggression against any person must be taken care of, when it comes to journalists and human rights defenders "there is a reinforced duty of the State in its three levels of government to prevent crimes and seek justice. "

González also pointed out that the lack of funds would not only endanger the beneficiaries but would also violate the commitment of the Federation and the National Conference of Governors (Conago) to comply with the general recommendations made by the CNDH, which the federal and state governments assumed as public policy.