Kaine and Rubio Urge State Department to Address Ongoing Violence Against Journalists in Mexico
Mexico remains the Western Hemisphere’s deadliest country for reporters
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women's Issues, and Ranking Member Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a bipartisan letter urging the U.S. Department of State to outline detailed steps the agency will take to help protect freedom of expression in Mexico and address the persistent violence against Mexican reporters.
“We write to express deep concern about the ongoing killings of journalists in Mexico and to seek greater insight into U.S. efforts in support of press freedom in the country,” wrote the Senators. “While the bilateral partnership between our nations remains strong, the U.S. must urge the Mexican government to seriously improve efforts to protect journalists.”
Nine journalists were killed in Mexico in 2021. Already, four have been brutally murdered in January of this year alone. For years, press freedom advocates have decried the Mexican government’s inaction to seriously address the threats journalists face. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador continues to severely criticize journalists who are critical of his government, and he has failed to effectively defend freedom of expression in Mexico. Reporters Without Borders ranked Mexico 143rd out of 180 countries in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index, and more than 50 journalists have been killed since President López Obrador’s Administration came to power in 2018.
“The years-long violence against journalists in Mexico cannot begin to lessen as long as the country’s leader continues to normalize hostility towards freedom of expression,” the Senators noted.
“We request that the State Department provide detailed information on what specific steps the agency will take to ensure that there is transparency and accountability for the recent murders of journalists, and to better address the crisis of freedom of expression in Mexico,” continued the Senators. “We also request an overview of the steps the Department has taken to address and mitigate pattern of cooperation between drug cartels and individual members of Mexico’s government. In addition to your written response, we urge State to schedule a briefing with our respective offices on this issue to better understand what actions Congress may take to help as well.”
Kaine is currently pushing for passage of his International Press Freedom Act, bipartisan legislation that would promote global press freedom by creating a Coordinator for International Press Freedom at the State Department. The bill would also authorize new funding for programs that help keep foreign journalists safe; use existing funding to prevent, investigate, and prosecute crimes against journalists overseas; and create a new visa category to allow threatened journalists to come to the U.S.
In July 2021, Senator Kaine led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Mexico. While in Mexico, Kaine participated in a roundtable with Mexican civil society leaders to discuss the importance of human rights and promoting press freedom in Mexico and around the world.
The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below:
Dear Secretary Blinken:
We write to express deep concern about the ongoing killings of journalists in Mexico and to seek greater insight into U.S. efforts to support press freedom in the country. While the bilateral partnership between our nations remains strong, the U.S. must urge the Mexican government to seriously improve efforts to protect journalists.
On January 23, 2022, Lourdes Maldonado López, a journalist who covered corruption and politics and who publicly expressed fear for her life to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was shot to death in Tijuana. She is the fourth journalist murdered in Mexico in January. The other three were Margarito Martínez Esquivel, José Luis Gamboa, and Roberto Toledo – all of whom also reported on the nexus between criminal groups and local authorities. This is especially troubling given that nine journalists were killed in all of 2021, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Press advocacy groups have documented the killings of over 140 Mexican journalists since 2000, many of whose deaths are believed to have been directly tied to their professional work. Indeed, Mexico remains the deadliest country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere and one of the deadliest and most dangerous worldwide.
Despite the Mexican government’s establishment of the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in 2012 – a program intended to strengthen protections for journalists and defend press freedom – the dangers journalists face have not abated. Reporters Without Borders ranked Mexico 143rd out of 180 countries in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index, and more than 50 journalists have been killed since President López Obrador came to power in 2018. It has become increasingly clear that current efforts to protect journalists are inadequate and that the U.S. must work alongside Mexico to develop a more comprehensive plan to reduce the violence that destabilizes Mexico and specifically impacts journalists.
This includes dramatically improving accountability for those who have sought to silence reporters. Mexico has one of highest rates of impunity in the world, with more than 95% of crimes against journalists going unpunished. Journalists who report on sensitive political issues or who dare to criticize armed gangs that have destabilized communities often face severe harassment and even abductions – leading them to face the choice of fleeing to escape the violence or potentially suffering deadly consequences. However, journalists who document the involvement of organized crime in politics are not the only ones who face danger. Alarmingly, even those who report on mundane local issues face severe risks to their safety, including the risk of murder.
Given these conditions, we are dismayed that President López Obrador continues his bellicose rhetoric against the press. One day after Ms. Maldonado López’s funeral, the president reiterated his government’s support for free speech, but simultaneously said that “very few journalists, women and men, are fulfilling their noble duty to inform. Most are looking to see how we fail.” These comments follow a familiar pattern of President López Obrador consistently disparaging journalists for daring to criticize his administration. He has also singled out NGOs that work to promote and defend press freedom, like Article 19, which he claims is working actively against his government. The years-long violence against journalists in Mexico cannot begin to lessen as long as the country’s leader continues to normalize hostility towards freedom of expression.
This inability or unwillingness to confront individuals who target journalists extends to numerous other Mexican government officials as well. The State Department’s recent human rights report documents that “43 percent of physical attacks against journalists in 2019 originated with public officials, of which 75 percent came from state or local officials and 7 percent stemmed from federal officials and members of the armed forces.” It is clear that Mexico’s rampant corruption – including ties between Mexico’s drug cartels, political figures, and security forces – has normalized the widespread impunity seen in the country. Ultimately, the troubling relationship between public officials and drug cartels must be confronted if all Mexicans, including journalists, are to be protected. Ensuring that all Mexicans feel safe and secure in Mexico is in both of our countries' best interests.
We are pleased that the State Department publicly condemned Ms. López’s murder and reiterated U.S. support for Mexico’s journalists. We also welcome the Mexican government’s pledge to investigate the killing and look forward to transparency with regards to their findings. However, the persistent attacks on reporters demonstrate the continuing need for Mexican officials to rein in the violence and directly address the impunity that enables these attacks. Moreover, the recent nationwide protests that Mexican journalists led denouncing the killings in January signal that the need for greater protections remains as strong as ever.
As such, we request that the State Department provide detailed information on what specific steps the agency will take to ensure that there is transparency and accountability for the recent murders of journalists, and to better address the crisis of freedom of expression in Mexico. We also request an overview of the steps the Department has taken to address and mitigate pattern of cooperation between drug cartels and individual members of Mexico’s government. In addition to your written response, we urge State to schedule a briefing with our respective offices on this issue to better understand what actions Congress may take to help as well.
The United States has long been among the staunchest defenders of press freedom across the globe. We maintain that credibility both by standing up to our adversaries and by being honest with our friends and allies. The U.S.-Mexico relationship is strong and united by shared values, but we must not forget that the vital work of journalists remains a cornerstone of any democracy – including Mexico’s. Thank you for your prompt attention to this issue.
Kaine y Rubio Instan al Departamento de Estado Abordar La Continua Violencia Contra Periodistas en México
México sigue siendo el país con más riesgo mortal en el hemisferio occidental para los periodistas
WASHINGTON, DC – Hoy, el senador estadounidense Tim Kaine (D-VA), Presidente del Subcomité sobre Hemisferio Occidental, Crimen Transnacional, Seguridad Civil, Democracia, DDHH y Asuntos Globales de la Mujer, y el Miembro de Más Alto Rango del subcomité, el Senador Marco Rubio (R-FL) enviaron una carta bipartidista instando al Departamento de Estado de EE. UU. a delinear los pasos detallados que la agencia tomará para ayudar a proteger la libertad de expresión en México y abordar la violencia persistente contra los periodistas mexicanos.
“Escribimos para expresar nuestra profunda preocupación por los continuos asesinatos de periodistas en México y para buscar una mayor comprensión de los esfuerzos de EE.UU. en apoyo a la libertad de prensa en el país”, escribieron los Senadores. “Si bien, la asociación bilateral entre nuestras naciones sigue siendo sólida, EE.UU. debe instar al gobierno mexicano a mejorar seriamente los esfuerzos para proteger a los periodistas”.
Nueve periodistas fueron asesinados en México en el 2021. Ya cuatro periodistas han sido brutalmente asesinados en enero de este año. Por años, los defensores de la libertad de prensa han denunciado la inacción del gobierno mexicano para abordar seriamente las amenazas que enfrentan los periodistas. El presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador continúa criticando severamente a los periodistas que critican a su gobierno y no ha defendido de manera efectiva la libertad de expresión en México. Reporteros sin Fronteras clasificó a México en el puesto 143 entre 180 países en su Índice Mundial de Libertad de Prensa del 2021. Más de 50 periodistas han sido asesinados desde que la Administración del presidente López Obrador llegó al poder en el 2018.
“La violencia que ha ocurrido por años contra periodistas en México no puede comenzar a disminuir mientras que el líder del país continúe normalizando la hostilidad hacia la libertad de expresión”, señalaron los Senadores.
“Solicitamos que el Departamento de Estado brinde información detallada sobre qué pasos específicos tomará la agencia para garantizar que haya transparencia y rendición de cuentas por los recientes asesinatos de periodistas, y para abordar de mejor manera la crisis de libertad de expresión en México”, continuaron los Senadores. “También solicitamos una descripción general de los pasos que ha tomado el Departamento para abordar y mitigar el patrón de cooperación entre los cárteles de droga e individuos del gobierno de México. Además de su respuesta por escrito, instamos al Departamento de Estado a programar una sesión informativa con nuestras oficinas sobre este tema para comprender mejor qué acciones puede tomar el Congreso para ayudar”.
Kaine actualmente está instando para que se apruebe su legislación sobre la Libertad de Prensa Internacional, un proyecto de ley bipartidista que promovería la libertad de prensa global mediante la creación de un Coordinador para la Libertad de Prensa Internacional en el Departamento de Estado. El proyecto de ley también autorizaría nuevos fondos para programas que ayuden a mantener seguros a los periodistas extranjeros; utilizaría fondos existentes para prevenir, investigar y enjuiciar delitos contra periodistas en el exterior y crearía una nueva categoría de visa para permitir que los periodistas amenazados vengan a EE.UU.
En julio del 2021, el senador Kaine lideró una delegación bipartidista del Congreso a México. Mientras estuvo en México, Kaine participó en una mesa redonda con líderes de la sociedad civil mexicana para discutir la importancia de los derechos humanos y la promoción de la libertad de prensa en México y en todo el mundo.
El texto de la carta en inglés está aquí.