By: E&P Staff
Mexican President Felipe Calderón told an international delegation from Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that the would redouble the nation’s efforts to ensure the safety of its embattled reporters, and to make crimes against journalists offense under federal law.
Warring drug cartels have made Mexico one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the world, with 10 murdered this year alone and another eight abducted with no news of their whereabouts. In a measure of the desperation of the press, the biggest newspaper in Ciudad Juarez, El Diario, ran a front-page editorial begging the cartels to stop threatening and killing its journalists, and asking the gangs to spell out what they should and should not publish to be safe.
During a 90-minute meeting in the Los Pinos presidential residence, IAPA and CPJ voiced their concern about the increasing number and brazen nature of the murders of Mexican journalists. For his part, Calderon said that ““the biggest threat to freedom of expression does not come from the government, which has a deep dedication to democracy and tolerance, rather from organized crime,” the delegation reported.
The delegation, headed by IAPA Vice President Gonzalo Marroquín, editor of the Guatemalan newspaper La Prensa, and CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, asked the president’s help in federalizing crimes against journalists be made federal offenses; stiffening penalties; eliminating statutes of limitations; and strengthening the work of the Office of the Special Prosecutor of Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression.
Calderón said a “national centralized process, with civil society participation,” would soon be put in place to evaluate risks and recommend safety measures, the delegation said.
IAPA and CPJ also held a second hour-and-a-half meeting with government officials to go over details of the plan offered by the special prosecutor, Gustavo Salas, who said that early procedures could begin next month.
A proposal to federalize crimes against journalists was introduced in the Mexican Congress in 2008, but no action has been taken on the legislation. Calderón said he had ordered Interior Minister José Francisco Blake Mora to follow up on this issue with Mexican Senate committees.
Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, declared, “We came to Mexico to express our solidarity with the government, the Mexican people and the country’s media and journalists so that a common front can be erected against the plague of violence and, in this way, the fundamental right of each citizen to know protected.”
The CPJ’s Simon expressed satisfaction at the fact that “President Calderón made clear his deeply-rooted commitment to freedom of the press, taking an hour and a half of his time with our delegation to openly discuss the existing challenges and pledging a firm response.”
“We came to Mexico to express our solidarity with the government, the Mexican people and the country’s media and journalists so that a common front can be erected against the plague of violence and, in this way, the fundamental right of each citizen to know protected,” Marroquín said.
In addition to Marroquín the IAPA delegation included Robert Rivard, chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas; International Affairs Committee Chairman Jorge Canahuati, La Prensa, San Pedro Sula, Honduras; former IAPA president Andrés García Gamboa, SIPSE Group of Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico; Impunity Committee Chairman Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, El Universa, Mexico City; Juan Fernando Healy, regional vice chairman for Mexico of the Committee for Freedom of the Press and Information and Periódicos Healy Mexico; Roberto Rock, vice chairman of the Committee for Freedom of the Press and Information, El Universal, Mexico; Executive Director Julio E. Muñoz; Press Freedom Director Ricardo Trotti, and María Idalia Gómez, of the IAPA Rapid Response Unit in Mexico.
Accompanying Simon in representation of CPJ were María Teresa Ronderos, member of the board of directors; Carlos Lauría, senior coordinator of the Americas program, and Michael O’ Connor, CPJ consultant in Mexico.