Mexico is currently one of the most dangerous countries in the world for writers and journalists. Over 100 journalists have been murdered since 2000, while many others have disappeared, often in direct connection to their writing. Meanwhile, impunity in crimes against journalists in Mexico stands at around 90 percent. The brutal murder of editor José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo, the first Mexican journalist to be killed in 2015, whose decapitated body was discovered on 24 January, served to highlight the urgent need for effective investigations to combat impunity and protect writers in Mexico.
To coincide with President Peña Nieto’s visit to the UK in March 2015, we therefore joined colleagues at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to publish an open letter detailing how ‘legislation…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’. Together with CPJ we are demanding that the government do more to protect freedom of expression in Mexico, and the human rights of all Mexicans.
The joint letter was one of a number of actions we will be taking to highlight the dangers facing journalists and writers over the course of 2015. Throughout the year, we will be issuing regular calls to action on behalf of writers, journalists, publishers, translators and journalists in Mexico, and endeavouring to increase the space for freedom of expression in Mexico.
We will also be supporting the families of the 43 Mexican students who were kidnapped in Iguala, Guerrero in September 2014. The search for the missing teacher trainees – all students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa – has led to the discovery of mass graves and in December 2014 the first of the students, 19-year-old Alexander Mora Venancio, was confirmed dead by forensic specialists. However, the whereabouts of the 42 other students remains unknown. Our active network of Student PEN Centres will be leading an action on behalf of the missing students and their families.
Visit our dedicated Tumblr, or search #StudentPENforAyotzinapa on Twitter for more details.
As well as campaigning for greater freedom of expression in Mexico and the safety of our fellow writers and students, we will also be celebrating writers and writing from Mexico through our Writers in Public and Writers in Translation programmes.
We are pleased to once again be working with the British Council and the London Book Fair, and to be hosting some of Mexico’s leading authors – including Carmen Boullosa, Valeria Luiselli, Elena Poniatowska, Juan Villoro and Jorge Volpi – at the PEN Literary Salon as part of this year’s Mexico Market Focus. We are also delighted to be hosting the remarkably brave journalist and activist Lydia Cacho, winner of the PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage in 2010, at the Free Word Centre on 16 April. We will also be joining the Hay Festival to celebrate their latest project, México20, on 29 May.
Find out more about our upcoming events and how to book tickets.
In addition to our public events programme, we will be promoting literature in translation and featuring regular dispatches from writers in Mexico on the PEN Atlas. Recent pieces include novelist Laia Jufresa on the on the fall and rise of Mexican comics and Pergentino José Ruiz on the importance of Mexico’s indigenous languages and oral culture, and PEN award winner Juan Pablo Villalobos on young people in Latin America.
Visit the PEN Atlas to read more literary dispatches from Mexico.