In a letter sent to President Peña Nieto to coincide with a state visit during which he will meet the Queen, the Prime Minister and address both Houses of Parliament, English PEN and CPJ have called on the Mexican President to urgently address impunity and attacks against journalists in Mexico.
It is now more than five months since 43 student teachers disappeared in Guerrero. Meanwhile, the abduction and subsequent brutal murder of newspaper editor José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo in January serves as a disturbing reminder that so long as the authorities fail to prosecute the killers of journalists, they will continue to be vulnerable to violent retribution for their work.
Shocking and horrific as these crimes are, sadly none are exceptional. José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo was at least the tenth journalist to have been murdered or disappeared in Veracruz since 2010, and one of more than 50 journalists killed or disappeared in the last seven years, many in direct connection to their journalism.
The disappearance of the 43 student teachers has united the nation and led to unprecedented demonstrations on the streets, yet enforced disappearances involving both non-state and state actors are rife in Mexico, and have been for decades.
Both cases have also highlighted the major threat to freedom of expression in Mexico and to Mexicans – impunity. Impunity in crimes against journalists in Mexico stands at around 90 percent, fuelled by corruption, collusion, or lack of resources by local and provincial authorities. Legislation in 2013 to support the enactment of a constitutional amendment giving federal authorities jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against journalists has been underutilised, and has not yielded any convictions in journalist killings. Meanwhile, the mayor of Medellín de Bravo, Omar Cruz Reyes, who was accused by one of the crime’s accomplices of masterminding José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo’s murder, enjoys immunity as an elected official. Prosecutors are seeking the removal of his immunity from the state. The impact of Mexico’s entrenched cycle of impunity and violence against the press is undeniable. Time and again media organisations and individual journalists have declared self-censorship as their only means of safety, leaving communities without access to information and news on vital topics.
English PEN and CPJ join with Mexicans in the UK and all over the world in demanding that the government do more to protect freedom of expression in Mexico, and the human rights of all Mexicans.
The joint letter is one of a number of actions English PEN will be taking to highlight the dangers facing journalists and writers as part of our 2015 focus on Mexico.