State legislature passes first law in Mexico protecting secrecy of journalists' sources

The legislature for the Mexican border state of Chihuahua, which recently has become one of the most violent regions in the country because of drug trafficking, has passed a law protecting journalistic secrets, the first such legislation in Mexico, reported El Diario de Ciudad Juárez.

The bill's sponsor, conservative congressman for the National Action Party (PAN in Spanish) Héctor Ortiz Orpinel, explained that the law is "general" and only represents a "first step toward strengthening protective measures for journalists," according to Milenio.

Mexican journalists, particularly those working in border cities like Ciudad Juárez in Chihuahua, live in a state of constant threat from organized crime and even security forces. "This is the first step toward being able to begin to discuss sensitive topics," said Ortiz, as quoted by the newspaper Norte.

The bill, approved by the Chihuahua congress on Tuesday, June 28, first was presented in October 2010, and since then has undergone review by various journalist organizations. The aim is for the law to go into effect this year.

The new law, comprised of 14 articles, prohibits authorities from reviewing computers, recordings or any other tool journalists use, explained El Diario de Chihuahua.

The law also says journalists and freelancers cannot be called to testify to make them reveal their sources, as often happens in the United States, which has state shield laws, but no federal law protecting sources. The new Chihuahua law says even if journalists are called to testify, they have the right not to reveal their sources.

For more details about the law, see this article in Spanish from Tiempo.

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.