Civil society reports poor implementation of protection mechanism for HRDs
As reported on the Monitor, an investigation revealed how Mexican authorities had used NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to target journalists, human rights defenders (HRDs) and anti-corruption activists. A new report by Citizen Lab released in August 2017, confirmed that HRDs Karla Micheel Salas and David Peña were also targets of the spyware in 2015. The two activists provide legal assistance on cases of human rights violations, including legal representation for the families of multiple femicide and homicide victims that occurred in Narvarte, Mexico City two years ago.
The environment for HRDs in the country continues to be hostile and in some areas increasingly dangerous. As explained on the Monitor country page, Mexico enacted a Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in 2012 that created a protection mechanism for HRDs at risk. However, civil society organisations published a report on 26th July 2017 analysing this protection mechanism and outlining the obstacles and challenges to its implementation. The report highlight a few issues in particular, such as the lack of a gender perspective for women human rights defenders at risk and the lack of coordination with the states to implement the protection measures. Furthermore, the report stated that the government has not yet developed any policies to create an enabling environment for human rights defenders and that impunity still exists, violations still occur and in some cases have even increased.
Journalists in Mexico continue to be the subjected to harassment and intimidation. Examples of such incidents over the last few months include the following:
On 13th July 2017, journalist Lydia Cacho was reportedly threatened while stopped at a street light in Quintana Roo by a man who demanded she stay away from Punta Brava. Cacho is investigating land invasions, corruption and the presence of armed groups in Punta Brava locality. She has been harassed and intimidated in the past and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted her protection measures in 2009.
A week later in the same region, it was reported that two “mantas”, or banners, containing threats against journalists Pedro Canché and Amir Ibrahim were hung in two different locations. Canché has been the victim of a defamation campaign on social media and was arbitrarily detained for a few months in 2014. Ibrahim has also received threatening messages.
In a separate incident, José Maldonado, the founder and editor of Agencia Mexicana de Noticias Noventa Grados, received a threatening email telling him to stop investigating the actions of local law enforcement. The Committee to Protect Journalists reviewed the email and made parts of it public, saying that “the email ends with a series of implicit death threats… and warns Maldonado that if he writes one more article it will be his last”. Article 19 also pointed out that Michoacán, the state where the journalist is currently working, is one of the most dangerous states for journalists; four journalists have been killed in there since 2000. On 13th July, Noventa Grados published an article about prominent justice officials and their alleged connections to organised crime, which may have prompted the threats against Maldonado.
Another case in July involved journalist Ruben Lopez Dominguez, whose car was found with numerous bullet holes and an intimidating message left on the windshield.
In a positive development, for the first time a first state official has been sentenced for his involvement in an attack against a journalist. On 21st July 2017, the former mayor of Silao, Enrique Benjamin Solis Arzola, accepted responsibility in the case of journalist Karla Silva who was attacked in 2014 by three men who broke into her office and physically assault her. Arzola was detained in 2016 as an “instigator” of the crime committed against the journalist. After he accepted responsibility for the incident, a court sentenced him to a two-year prison term.
Due to the increasing attacks against journalists, several national and international organisations have joined the #AgendaDePeriodistas campaign to address the rising violence against Mexican journalists. According to the Knight Center at the University of Texas, the initiative is designed to bring together key organisations to represent the needs of journalists and create a framework that outlines safer conditions for them to do their jobs. Participants include journalists from 20 states, academics, the National Commission on Human Rights, and groups like Horizontal, Article 19 Mexico and Fundar.
On 11th July 2017, dozens of protesters marched to the Attorney General’s office in Mexico City in protest over the spike in violence against women. A prominent local official, Alicia Barrientos, led part of the protest and demanded that the government do more to protect women and girls across the country.