Mexico’s journalists need good news. After a decade of seeing an increasing number of their colleagues killed for their work, they need a sign of good things to come — could the country’s present moment of presidential transition be that sign?
In December, the leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) will become Mexico’s president after the biggest election in the country’s history. With 30.1 million votes, AMLO received the most votes of any candidate, ever. But with AMLO’s popularity has come some wariness of the change ahead. For journalists on dangerous assignments, this uncertainty is particularly high-stakes. While it’s too early to know AMLO’s impact on journalists’ security with any certainty, international organizations and their Mexican counterparts have begun to speculate and offer recommendations to the incoming president.
Mexican journalists are among the world’s most at-risk. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ’s) Impunity Index, Mexico is ranked sixth, behind countries that are currently active war zones; ninety percent of the nation’s crimes against journalists go unpunished. As of 2017, 21 Mexican journalists had been murdered with complete impunity in a mere decade. Most of those targeted are local journalists in drug cartel-dominated states, reporting especially on crime, corruption and politics.
It is important to note that many of these murders are carried out with the knowledge and even participation of public officials, says Jan-Albert Hootsen, Mexico correspondent for CPJ. “The line between organized crime and public officials — especially on a local level — can be very blurry.”
The context of this year’s landmark election exacerbated these tensions. International watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its Mexican partner Propuesta Cívica monitored the lead-up to AMLO’s win, registering 45 attacks on journalists from January through May 2018. Candidates, political party supporters and candidate campaign teams were the main perpetrators, and several were seeking positions of power: “The eight candidates who perpetrated attacks [were] running for mayor, governor or senator.”
If AMLO’s statements earlier this year (and his supporters’ confidence) are any indication, his administration could signal a sea change.
“We are going to take care of journalists because they are under a state of extreme threat. They can no longer write freely because they are so under threat. Under [a Morena] government, they will have full, complete freedom,” AMLO said early this year…
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