The Inter American Press Association has welcomed the passage in the Mexican senate of an amendment to make crimes against freedom of expression and the right to information federal offenses, calling such approval a significant move ahead for combating the impunity surrounding crimes against journalists in Mexico. The journalism advocacy organization further urged the relevant authorities to take action for the constitutional change to come into effect immediately.
Earlier Tuesday, on the unanimous vote of the 95 members present, the senate passed an amendment of Article 73 of the constitution, which establishes that “the federal authorities shall be able also to deal with offenses of general jurisdiction when these are connected to federal offenses or crimes against journalists, in the exercise of freedom of expression, information, and the press.”
Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, chairman of the Inter American Press Association’s Impunity Committee, who was present during the senate’s approval session, declared, “This is a fundamental advance, a demonstration of the sensibility of Congress, which thus is acting on a long–voiced demand by the Mexican press and the IAPA.”
Ealy, executive chairman of the board of directors of the Mexican newspaper El Universal, added, “What are needed are new steps in this line of action to effectively fight against impunity and prevent new attacks on journalists.”
Prior to the start of the debate, the members of Congress observed a minute of silence in homage to murdered journalists.
For 15 years the Inter American Press Association has been stressing, with emphasis at various levels, the importance of
pursuing legislation on bringing these crimes against journalists under federal jurisdiction in order to minimize the impact of such offenses and the impunity surrounding them.
The efforts on behalf of such federalization date back to 1997. Since then, more than 20 association international delegations have visited Mexico and met on eight occasions with Presidents Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, and Felipe Calderón, to whom they stressed the urgent need to bring crimes against journalists under federal jurisdiction, to make such offenses not subject to statutes of limitation, and to stiffen penalties.
The hemispheric organization since then has sent to the Mexican congress and other authorities resolutions in this regard adopted at its twice-yearly membership meetings, which urged approval of reforms needed to prevent crimes against freedom of expression going unpunished.
The Inter American Press Association in Mexico also held national and international conferences, among these the 2nd Meeting of Mexican Editors and Publishers in June 2008, from which emerged a draft bill for legal reforms that was presented to congress by newspaper executives, seeking to make crimes committed against free speech and press freedom federal offenses and subject to harsh penalties.
Aware in addition of the risks to reporters in covering the news in Mexico, where since 1987, according to figures compiled by the Inter American Press Association, 84 journalists have been killed and another 19 have gone missing, the organization has held seminars, workshops and courses in various Mexican states on violence, organized crime, and justice and the press, in which some 600 Mexican members of the press have participated.
* The parent corporation of A.M. Costa Rica is a member of the association.