Press organizations urge Obama to push for greater protections for journalists during his trip to Mexico, Costa Rica

By Zach Dyer

On Thursday, May 2, the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF in French) published an open letter to United States President Barack Obama urging him to use his visit to Mexico this week, his first trip abroad during his second term, to strike a firm commitment to protect freedom of expression and end impunity for press crimes in the troubled country.

During the last decade, Mexico has become the most dangerous country in the world for the press, according to RSF, with 86 journalists killed and 18 missing. Any signs of progress from the Mexican Congress’ decision to pass legislation allowing federal authorities to investigate crimes against journalists last week was eclipsed by the anniversary of Regina Martínez’s killing on April 28, and the discovery of photographer Daniel Martínez Bazaldúa’s dismembered body in Coahuila on April 24.  RSF also reported that journalist Gerardo Blanquet went missing on Tuesday, April 30.

RSF tied the “collapse of the rule of law” in Mexico, in part, to the United States on what it called failed drug policies and a flood of guns entering Mexico from the U.S. Freedom House echoed those concerns in an April 26 policy brief, claiming that the violence affecting journalists is fueled in part by $2 billion in U.S. assistance for the war on drugs, which “threatens to undermine the very foundations of Mexico’s democracy.” The organization’s 2013 Freedom of the Press index ranks Mexico as “not free.”

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Impunity Index, Mexico is second only to Brazil for the number of press killings that go unpunished in the Americas.

RSF’s recommendations to the president included:

  • Make it easier for Mexican journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders to obtain asylum in the United States.
  • Use its influence within the Organization of American States, together with other governments, so that pressure is put on Mexico to render justice in the cases of journalists who have been murdered or who have disappeared.
  • Press the Mexican federal government to obtain tangible results in the investigation into U.S. cameraman Brad Will’s murder, a case that is typical of the way officials are often complicit in violations of freedom of information in Mexico.

Read the full letter from RSF here.

Obama’s trip to Mexico begins today, Thursday, May 2, where he will meet with Mexican President Peña Nieto in Mexico City. On Friday, he will travel to Costa Rica, where he will have a bilateral meeting with President Laura Chinchilla, and lastly, on Saturday, May 4, the president will attend the Central America Forum on Sustainable Economic Development in San José, Costa Rica, with other heads of state from the region before returning home, according to a schedule released by the White House.

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.