12 Journalists Have Been Killed In Mexico This Year, The World's Highest Toll
This year, Mexico surpassed Syria to become the deadliest country for journalists, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
Many consider that overall levels of violence and impunity in Mexico are the biggest problems facing Mexican journalists. But press advocates say the president's harsh rhetoric toward the media isn't helping the situation.
So far this year, 12 journalists have been killed, according to Mexico's National Human Rights Commission. Some press rights groups put the number even higher, according to their own reporting criteria.
This summer has been particularly brutal. In late August, 42-year-old Nevith Condés Jaramillo was found stabbed to death in Mexico state. Condés ran a news website there, was a past radio host and posted stories on Facebook and YouTube.
A month earlier, in just one week, three journalists were killed. Two in the southern state of Guerrero, the other in Veracruz.
Among the latest four reporters killed, two had reportedly sought help under Mexico's journalist protection program, which was created in 2012 to aid threatened reporters.
Sara Lidia Mendiola, who runs a legal advocacy organization for journalists called Propuesta Cívica, says the protection program is insufficient. "In the current climate of violence taking over the country, it isn't enough," she says.
Homicide rates in Mexico have hit record levels, averaging nearly 100 a day from January through June, according to official data. Most are never solved.
"As long as there is not a credible fight against impunity these murders against journalists are not going to stop," Mendiola says. She says an estimated 99% of all journalist homicide cases go unpunished.
Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised to combat violence against journalists and all citizens when he came into office last December. But press advocates says he has made no progress and may be making the situation worse.
Every weekday at 7 a.m., López Obrador gives a news conference that can run over two hours. Occasionally the briefings turn into sparring matches between the president and journalists.
Last month, the president took exception to a question from a reporter with Proceso magazine and launched into a long response about the role of the media. "Proceso has not behaved well with us," López Obrador said.
The reporter Arturo Rodríguez interrupted the president to respond: "The role of the press is not to behave well with any one president, but to inform," he said.
The president often criticizes the media, calling it conservative, out of touch or fifí, slang for elite.
"Such language is very dangerous in a country where the press is so vulnerable," says Homero Campa, an editor at Proceso.
Campa says state and local officials now mimic the president, using the same rhetoric to attack the media. This is especially worrying, press advocates say, given that federal officials have found that journalist murders frequently involve local authorities.
López Obrador defends his tough stance, saying he is calling out sloppy journalists, bad actors and enemies. His Morena party in Congress is looking to reform the law to strengthen protections for journalists. The lead lawmaker in that effort declined NPR's repeated requests for an interview.
Sara Mendiola of Propuesta Cívica says new legislation would be a good step. "But we don't have a lot of hope that things are going to change, one law alone can't do it," she says. The president should change his tone, she adds, and that would help immensely.