Mexico’s Journalists Are Under Attack. Can They Get Anyone to Care?

Mexico’s Journalists Are Under Attack. Can They Get Anyone to Care?
Protesters carry images of murdered journalist Javier Valdez during a demonstration outside the Interior Ministry in Mexico City, May 16, 2017 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

MEXICO CITY—Over two days in mid-June, more than 300 journalists gathered in Mexico City to discuss how to respond to the murder of 33 of their colleagues in the past five years. Last year, Mexico was the third-most dangerous country in the world for journalists, according to the NGO Reporters Without Borders. Nine reporters were killed in unrelated incidents across the country. With no fewer than seven journalists murdered so far this year, 2017 is almost certain to surpass that figure.

The reporters in Mexico City launched an initiative known as the Journalists’ Agenda to push the government to participate in drawing up a plan of action to address the violence. They were moved to action following the highest-profile killing of a journalist in Mexico in years. On May 15, award-winning crime reporter and author Javier Valdez was shot dead by gunmen in broad daylight in the city of Culiacan, in Sinaloa, a major drug-trafficking hub in the country's northwest. The recipient of the 2011 International Press Freedom Award from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Valdez’ death prompted a media blackout by several leading outlets in protest and has inspired an unprecedented level of solidarity among Mexican journalists.

But Mexican journalists face a government that is often part of the problem, as documented in a recent report by the London-based human rights organization Article 19, which defends freedom of expression around the world: Out of 426 aggressions against the Mexican press in 2016, including verbal threats and other acts of intimidation, as many as 53 percent were carried out by public officials. Of those cases, 99.7 percent of them have gone unpunished.

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