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Mexico's Media Faced a Record Number of Violent Attacks in 2015

A new report documented nearly 400 violent attacks on media workers in Mexico during 2015, including seven murders. The report blames public officials, as well as drug cartels, for the record number of assaults.
March 17, 2016, 9:04pm
Photo by Sashenka Gutiérrez/EPA

The international press freedom group Article 19 says that 2015 was "the most violent year" ever for the media in Mexico.

In a report released on Thursday, the organization's Mexican chapter said it documented 397 cases of violence against media workers last year, including seven murders. That represents a 22 percent increase on the number of aggressions against the press registered in 2014.

Although drug cartels are frequently blamed for making journalism in Mexico such a dangerous profession, Article 19 stressed that over half the attacks on journalists in the country in 2015 were carried out by public officials.

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These included acts of intimidation, death threats, and the beating up of individuals. The report also highlighted armed assaults and arson attacks directed against newsrooms. It emphasized that this was a record year for the number of women targeted, which reached a total of 84.

There were two more journalists killed in 2015 than were murdered the year before. The total of seven, however, was at least less than it was in the record year of 2010.

"There is fear installed in every newsroom in Mexico today, to a lesser or greater degree," the organization's head, Darío Ramírez, said during the presentation of the report. "It is impossible to produce responsible and thorough journalism in the public interest when you are scared."

Mexican Journalists Are Still Being Killed Despite Promises of Protection

The report said the most dangerous places to work in the media in Mexico are the capital and the southern state of Veracruz. The number of documented attacks in both totaled 67, though the causes differ.

In Mexico City most of the attacks against the press are related to the coverage of social protests, in which reporters and photographers are targeted by police when they document abuses. In Veracruz they are part of a more general, and more acute, human rights crisis involving the authorities, as well as the security nightmare associated with the drug wars.

But while the roots are different, the result is often the same.

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"Impunity is the norm in both cases," said Lucía Vergara, of Article 19, stressing the failure of the special government structures and laws created in recent years in the name of protecting journalists and human rights defenders. "The political will to protect them does not exist. In other words the aggressions against the press can continue because the authorities give a message of impunity."

The August 2015 torture and murder of photojournalist Rubén Espinosa, along with four other people, brought together the capital and Veracruz.

The horror took place inside an apartment in a middle-class neighborhood of Mexico City. Espinosa had fled there from Veracruz in search of safety from death threats.

Officials have insisted that Espinosa's job as a journalist had nothing to do with his murder, but many of his colleagues reject this.

The Article 19 report also highlighted a huge increase in the number of digital attacks on newsites in Mexico. There were 59 such assaults between 2009 and 2015, over half of which took place last year.

A Photojournalist Fled Veracruz Under Threat, But Murder Found Him in Mexico City

Rogelio Velázquez contributed to this report.

Follow Alan Hernández and Rogelio Velázquez on Twitter: @alanpasten_ and _@roger_velav__