Freedom of expression and information, pending rights in the face of a critical situation of violence and censorship: ARTICLE 19

MEXICO CITY, July 10, (CDMX MAGAZINE). –ARTICLE 19 presented Derechos Pendientes (Pending Rights), its six-year report on violence against the press, freedom of expression, the right to truth and access to information in Mexico, which delves into the pressing aspects of the national human rights agenda for the future.

During the presentation event, held at the Centro Cultural España in Mexico City, Leopoldo Maldonado, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Office for Mexico and Central America, noted that Mexico is in a critical situation of violence that requires the sum of all efforts and perspectives, which is why the Report seeks to shed light on the challenges to freedom of expression that remain current, such as violence against the press, discretion in the allocation of official advertising and the lack of guarantees for the right to the truth of victims and society.

He noted that in view of the arrival of a new government that has given signs of openness, it is essential to establish a respectful and objective dialogue on the deterioration that the human rights agenda and guarantees of freedom of expression have suffered from 2018 to date.

As an example of how collaboration between civil society and government can generate virtuous dynamics, the report highlights that within the Ministry of the Interior spaces were created, such as the working group for the improvement of the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which allowed for political and technical dialogue on the improvement of said body.

Extreme censorship and violence against the press on the rise

In the core of Pending Rights, ARTICLE 19 reported that during the six-year term of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), 3,408 attacks against the press were recorded, of which 561 were recorded in 2023 alone. This figure is equivalent to an average of one attack every 14 hours in the last six years, including the murders of at least 46 journalists and four missing persons. The total represents a 62.13% increase in attacks against the press compared to the six-year term of Enrique Peña Nieto.

It also highlights that online attacks accounted for one in three attacks during the six-year term. The organization recorded that the Mexican State, through its authorities, remains the main aggressor of the press with 1,559 attacks (45.75% of the total).

At the national level, ARTICLE 19 recorded attacks against journalists and media outlets in all states of the Republic; however, the highest rates of violence were recorded in Mexico City (582), Guerrero (247), Puebla (241), Quintana Roo (236) and Veracruz (199).

ARTICLE 19 also shared that during the six-year term, 179 attacks were recorded during the “morning press conferences” and identified that municipal and state authorities from 20 entities of the Republic repeated the same stigmatizing discourse 62 times, with accusations such as: “journalistic underworld”, “hypocrites”, “fifí press”, “conservatives”, “puppets”, “two-faced” and “corrupt”.

The organization also insisted on the government’s strategy of controlling editorial lines through spending on official communications. Of the 916 media outlets that received official advertising during López Obrador’s government, the first 10 concentrated 47.08% of the resources.

The politics of forgetting

The ARTICLE 19 report also highlights concerns surrounding the country’s crisis of missing persons, as well as the policy of reducing numbers surrounding the issue.

According to reports compiled by the organization, from December 1, 2018, to August 2023, 44,073 missing persons were recorded. This means that more than 40% of the total number of reported disappearances since 1965 occurred during the current López Obrador government. In these six years, an average of 25 people have disappeared every day, and one every hour.

In addition to this, in 2023 the president announced the implementation of the National Census of Missing Persons by the Segob, an institution that does not have the legal powers to search for missing persons in the country, and which presented among its results that of the 110,964 missing persons only 12,377 were confirmed as such, since the others fell into categories such as “no information for the search”, “lack of data for identification”, “people located” and “people located”.

Similarly, the report notes that despite the entry into force of the General Law on Forced Disappearances in 2018 and the insistence of various groups and individuals to accelerate inter-institutional collaboration to search for missing persons, the government’s openness has been minimal.

State control of digital space

In Derechos Pendientes, the organization also monitors the exercise of digital rights in Mexico, a fundamental area for the development of democratic societies.

In this regard, the organization denounced that despite declaring in December 2018 that there was no longer espionage, the AMLO administration continued with the acquisition and operation of spy equipment of various ranges and sophistication. The most worrying milestone was the one exposed by the investigation of “Spy Army”, in which the use of the Pegasus system against human rights defenders and journalists was detected during the current six-year term.

These actions are accompanied by reforms that openly violate the rights to freedom of expression and privacy, such as the so-called “notice and takedown” mechanism in the Federal Copyright Law.

The report also identified a decline in the Mexican population’s access to devices and the Internet. The most recent figures show that only 43.8% of households have computers, a worrying situation when compared to the 44.9% reported in 2015.

In a national context where the lack of basic services prevails, the right to access the Internet has become a privilege for the population living in poverty, since the expense to have this service represents 8.6% of their monthly income, making it a privilege that deepens inequality.

Institutional erosion

The report also points out the setback that has occurred in terms of institutionality. Throughout the six-year term — until a cutoff in May 2024 — 65 appointments were made in 17 of the 19 key institutions, out of a total of 96 appointments that had to be made by law.

This situation had a particular impact in terms of access to information, through the paralysis to which the ruling party majority in the Senate subjected the National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (INAI).

The above is part of a strategy to weaken democratic institutions and checks and balances, also represented by the inaction of institutions such as the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), which, of the 1,726 investigations opened since its creation as of April 2024, only reports 187 sentences and other forms of resolution in favor of the victims. This results in impunity in 89.17% of cases of violence against the press.

Discussion Table

Following the presentation of the report, the organization held a discussion panel with the participation of journalists Gabriela Warkentin and Carlos Bravo Regidor, who offered a diagnosis of the report and what its findings represent in light of the change in government.

The full report is available for consultation at:

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