Journalists and their families continue to face a dangerous environment

Peaceful Assembly

Protests on violence against women

Hundreds of people marched in the streets of Mexico City to protest violence against women and girls in the country. In a reference to the country’s traditional Día de los Muertos celebration, the march on 3rd November 2019 commemorated the Día de las Muertas, or “Day of the Dead Women”. During one demonstration through the capital, people carried hundreds of purple crosses, each with the name of a woman who was murdered or is missing. “The authorities don’t do anything to find these killers and the killers realize that they are taking so long that they have a chance to get away. And they are going to continue doing so if we allow them to,” said a mother holding a photo of her daughter.

On 25th November 2019, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, over 40 feminist collectives and CSOs organised direct actions to protest gender-based violence and hundreds of people joined vigils in remembrance of women who have been victims of feminicide in Mexico.

Police officers injured in demonstration

On 12th November 2019, a demonstration organised by federal police officers near the Mexico City International Airport ended with 60 people injured, including 32 local police officers. As previously reported on the Monitor, members of the federal police have been protesting for several months against a policy that requires officers to serve in the National Guard. During this latest demonstration, federal police officers set up a blockade on the road near the airport to demand fair compensation. According to news reports, when local police tried to remove the blockade, both sides became violent. Federal police officers threw tear gas against the local officers, who reportedly responded with gas cannisters of their own. The blockade was maintained for over six hours.

Migrants and transport workers demonstrate

On 10th October 2019, hundreds of migrants temporarily living in Matamoros demonstrated on the Puente Nuevo de Matamoros, a bridge that connects the Mexican state of Tamaulipas with the U.S. state of Texas. The protesters asked to have their requests for asylum in the U.S processed. Thousands of migrants are stranded near the border as they wait for their asylum claims to be processed, some living in tents near the Matamoros bridge. After the protests, news outlets reported that local authorities were considering new security measures to prevent demonstrations blocking border crossings.

On 29th October 2019, the transport union Alianza Mexicana de Organización de Transportistas (Mexican Alliance of Transportation Organizations – Amotac) organised a coordinated protest across several Mexican cities. Truck drivers demanded improvements to highway safety, a ban on the use of double semi-trucks and policy measures to address the rising cost of gas and tolls. Amotac, which represents more than 65,000 drivers, also met with government officials for negotiations. “We feel very neglected by the [transportation] department and that’s what motivated the decision to come out and protest,” one of the group’s leaders said.

Violent protest in Chiapas state

Eleven people were arrested for breaking into the office of the Las Margaritas mayor and dragging him through the streets tied to the back of a truck on 9th October 2019. According to media reports, dozens of people from Santa Rita El Invernadero entered the mayor’s office armed with weapons to demand more resources for their rural community. They also claimed that the mayor had failed to fulfil his campaign promises. He was dragged through several blocks before the police were able to rescue him. The mayor suffered minor physical injury and dozens of people were injured in clashes between the group and the police. A few months earlier, members of the same community had staged a violent protest at the town hall.

Expression

Journalists and their family members threatened

On 11th October 2019, Alberto Amaro Jordán, a reporter with La Prensa de Tiaxcala, was broadcasting live during a police operation on a public street in Apizaco when he was assaulted and threatened by police officers. A video of the incident, taken by Jordán, shows officers attacking him and trying to take away the mobile phone he was using to record police arresting two street vendors. The journalist also claims that a masked officer threatened him off camera. Freedom of expression CSO Article 19 reports that Jordán had received previous threats, including an attack with a firearm, and that he is trying to enrol in the federal protection programme but has not received any information on the status of his request.

As reported by Article 19, on 8th November 2019 a reporter for 7 de Junio Digital and Entorno Coahuila received a threatening call just days after releasing videos of two separate incidents showing police brutality in Salito, Coahuila. Gerardo Rico Lopez told Article 19 that he feels unsafe because the caller made references to his work and his daughter’s location. Lopez has been targeted by local officials before because of his work reporting on local officials and crime.

The CSO also reported that on 5th October 2019 the daughter of a journalist with Los Angeles Press was held against her will in a taxi in Mexicali before managing to escape. Angela Gástelum Lizárraga, daughter of reporter Guadalupe Lizárraga, said that the taxi driver locked the doors and ignored her directions while attempting to drive her to an unknown location. Lizárraga and other staff of the media outlet have been harassed before because of their work, including through online smear campaigns and the burglary of a reporter’s home.

Other related updates

Digital media outlet Zona Franca published an article refusing a request for information about a confidential source from Guanajuato’s Comptroller’s Office. The demand is related to a story on the acquisition of land for the construction of a new soccer stadium. Zona Franca received a letter from the Comptroller’s office in late October stating that they are conducting an internal investigation and requesting that the news outlet provide an explanation about when and how it learned of the confidential information it used for the story.

An international mission of press freedom organisations travelled to Mexico in November 2019 to meet with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and other top officials and discuss efforts to protect free expression and address the country’s pervasive violence against journalists. Representatives from 17 groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, PEN America and the International Federation of Journalists encouraged the country’s leaders to recognise the extent of the problem and to adopt substantive reforms that restrict surveillance and censorship and toughen penalties for crimes against journalists. However, the Mexican President failed to recognise the stigmatisation of journalists, highlighted as one of the main concerns for civil society. While many suggested reforms were rejected, key points agreed to included:

  • The establishment of a twice-yearly meeting with the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) regarding the implementation of the relevant protocol (Protocolo homologado) governing the investigation of crimes against freedom of expression.
  • The creation of a working group to drive the implementation of the 104 recommendations made by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the federal protection mechanism for journalists.
  • The creation of a platform to view all recommendations given by international bodies as well as the status of their implementation.
  • Lawmakers from different parties committed to working with civil society to push forward legislative changes.

In 2019, Mexico became the deadliest country in the world for journalists. More than 99 percent of murders and disappearances of journalists in the country remain unsolved.