The number of journalists killed worldwide on account of their work has gone down once again in 2017. However, journalists in Mexico faced a particularly deadly year. Outside of conflict zones, Mexico was the deadliest location for journalists. It has been reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP) that six journalists were murdered in Mexico this year, but according to Reporters Without Borders the number is actually 11 and another name may soon be added to the list. Local crime reporter Gumaro Perez Aguilando was gunned down last Tuesday at an end of the year Christmas party hosted by his son’s elementary school. Parents and children watched the horrible display of violence and repression, but authorities have no suspects and have not commented on the motives they believe caused the killing. For the citizens of the city of Acayucan, the place of Perez’s murder, both the motives and the suspects are clear. Corruption and the fracturing of drug cartels has increased violence overall in Mexico, and that is the cause of the deadly year for journalists.
“Journalist murders hardly ever get investigated, they hardy ever get prosecuted. As that situation continues, the violence continues to be exacerbated,” said CJP’s Mexico representative Jan-Albert Hootsen. Local authorities are often involved with murders, and citizens have received little help from national authorities. Journalists around Mexico are in constant danger and many have decided to self-censor their work in order to avoid being murdered. “The word in Spanish is deprimido. Depressed. Everybody is really down about the situation. There’s a lot of panic every time there’s news about attacks. It’s really starting to affect the psyche of journalists in general,” Hoosten said talking about the state of journalists in the country. Hoosten then went on to say, “When there’s no free press to check on abuses of power or check on corruption, there’s no way that voters next year are going to know what’s going on.”
The violent repression of journalists has come at a time when they are needed the most, and both the Mexican government and the international community must work together to protect the freedom of the press in Mexico. Many journalists enrolled in government protection programs have not received enough support. Candido Rios Vazquez, a reporter from the newspaper El Diario de Acayucan who had received multiple death threats due to his reporting, was murdered in August along with two others while in a government protection program. As a bordering country, the U.S. has an opportunity to aid in the protection of journalists by allowing those in serious danger asylum, but at the moment the U.S. has been doing the opposite. Emilio Gutierrez is a journalist in Mexico that traveled to the U.S. in order to find asylum with his 15-year-old son. Gutierrez is currently being held at a detention center in El Paso, and his deportation could be a death sentence. Gutierrez had received death threats after he began reporting on multiple cases of abuses by Mexican soldiers.
If journalists in Mexico continue to be silenced by the threat off murder, government accountability and freedom of expression will be in danger of being killed as well. The federal courts of Mexico must recognize the growing number of journalists being murdered as an attack on the freedom of expression, and take serious steps to protect all those living in constant danger. It is also up to countries such as the U.S. to provide asylum to all journalists who have stood up against corruption and were put in danger because of it. They must also not punish those who have already entered the country in order to save their own lives.
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