During his state visit to the UK in March 2015, English PEN joined the Committee to Protect Journalists in sending an open letter to President Peña Nieto urging the Mexican authorities to address impunity and attacks against journalists in Mexico. We have yet to receive a response.
As part of our ongoing Mexico focus, we are therefore inviting our members, supporters, and visitors to this week’s London Book Fair to join our call.
On the occasion of the Year of Mexico in the UK and the UK in Mexico we, the undersigned, demand that the Mexican government take stronger steps to protect freedom of expression.
It is now more than six 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.
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.
We 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.