Freedom of Expression in Mexico: An Important First Step

Last month, Committee to Protect Journalists announced that Mexican President Felipe Calderon had pledged his commitment to federalize crimes against freedom of expression. This announcement came on the heels of a CJP delegation, led by the organization’s board Chairman Paul Steiger and Executive Director Joel Simon that met with Calderon and several members of his cabinet. Shortly thereafter, Mexico’s Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora announced draft legislation that would amend Article 73 of Mexico’s political constitution that would make a federal offense for any crime causing “social alarm”, including threats to freedom of expression.

This legislation is expected to be introduced into the Mexican congress this fall but could take between six and twelve months to pass. Meanwhile, Mexico remains a dangerous county. Research shows that over the past 15 years, 13 journalists were killed in direct relation to their work, and 14 additional journalists were killed under mysterious circumstances. Three journalists and three media workers were murdered in 2007, and another three reporters went missing. This violence has continued in 2008. Historically, journalists who cover organized crime and official corruption are particularly at risk.

If this legislation is passed, it alone would not solve the issues of attacks on freedom of expression in Mexico, but it would be an important first step for the country. As Joel Simon recently wrote, it’s not realistic to believe that the federalization of crimes against journalists will ensure successful prosecutions automatically. But it would send a message to the press and to the public that the government is actively cracking down against impunity.

Also last month, CPJ launched a special report “Three Killings, No Justice” written by Monica Campbell which discuses several unsolved cases of slain journalists. The report looks at the factors is preventing three specific cases of killed journalists in Mexico from being solved.