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‘When the media is killed, society loses’

Mexico is an emerging democracy but also one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Earlier this year Joel Vera was forced to shut down his news portal Monitor Michoacán after two of his colleagues were killed.

This content was published on September 22, 2022 - 09:00

In Zitácuaro, in the state of Michoacán, 155 kilometres from Mexico City, the news website Monitor Michoacán “was silenced”, claims Vera, the site’s former deputy director.

“Two people were murdered. When the media is killed, society loses, but it must wake up to protect people who exercise freedom of expression,” he tells SWI swissinfo.ch.

Vera closed the small news portal after the murder of two of his colleagues “because there are no security guarantees for freedom of expression”.

He explains why these lethal attacks against the press can occur in Mexico: “The problem in Mexico is corruption, which leads to impunity.”

International condemnation

“We condemn the murder of journalist Armando Linares López, which occurred on March 15 in Zitácuaro, Michoacán,” wrote the European Union, Norway and Switzerland in a joint statement issued on March 18.

Linares López was director of Monitor Michoacán and was dedicated to investigating corruption cases. On January 31, Roberto Toledo, who worked for the same media outlet, was also murdered. Linares López had denounced death threats against him.

While international newspapers such as El PaísExternal link have reported on this and other cases that show Mexico to be one of the most dangerous states for freedom of expression, “impunity prevents the perpetrators of the murders of journalists from being held accountable,” says Joel Vera.

“The same actors who should protect freedom of expression are the ones who silence it,” adds the former columnist.

Demanding reliable protection

Vera has participated in a working group, organised by the local authorities after Linares’s murder, which aims to speed up the establishment of protection mechanisms for the press in Michoacán.

“Legal conditions, security schemes and institutions must be created to really guarantee protection,” says Vera, who is not alone in trying to improve freedom of expression in Mexico. 

The organisation Artículo 19, which documents attacks on journalists, indicates in its most recent reportExternal link on Mexico that public officials are implicated in at least 40% of these cases.

When it comes to Monitor Michoacán, “it is worrying that the local and national authorities claimed – before any investigation – that these were crimes committed by organised crime and probably unconnected to journalism,” says the NGO.

This is a way, says Artículo 19, of “avoiding responsibility” to shed light on attacks on the media in a country where 15 journalists have been murdered so far in 2022 and where 80 people die each day due to violenceExternal link.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said after Linares’s death that “the state does not repress, does not kill, and does not allow impunity either”. However, the failure to conclude investigations into the murder of journalists in Mexico and bring the perpetrators to justice is well known, as pointed out in the statement by the EU, Norway and Switzerland.  

Edited by Mark Livingston

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