Threats increase against press in Mexico during first months of new presidential administration

Threats against the press in Mexico increased 46% in the first half of 2013 in comparison with the same period last year, according to a new report from the organization Artículo 19.  In the first part of 2013, the organization recorded a total of 151 attacks against journalists and members of the media, including two killings, one disappearance, four armed attacks, 26 threats, and seven violations of freedom of expression.

A third of those making the threats during this period where public officials.  Another 20% were made by members of the teachers' unions and other similar groups, while in 26% of the cases the aggressor was unknown. Only 3% of the threats were made by organized crime members, according to the organization.

The time period looked at coincides with the first six months of the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto. The study highlights a trend of putting down protests against the administration. Article 19's findings also reveal that in many cases, members of the teachers' union assaulted journalists who were covering their rallies and protests.

The report was released a few days before local and state elections are held on July 7 in a third of the country. Members of the country's three main political parties have denounced irregularities in the campaigns such as diverting public resources to the candidates, using social programs for electoral gains, armed attacks against other candidates, and governors intervening on behalf of certain candidates, according to CNN México.

The electoral season has also affected the actual work of reporters. Article 19 denounced the firings and forced resignations of three journalists who opposed pressures by their employers. In the state of Baja California, where a new governor will be elected, a radio host resigned because his station director at Radiorama tried to force him to conduct interviews commercially tied to certain political leaders. Two other reporters in the states of Veracruz and Chihuahua (where elections are also being held), were fired following pressure from politicians on their respective news organizations. Meanwhile in Tlaxcala, another state holding elections, five journalists were sued for defamation by people close to the governor.

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.