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Media 051815 Wayne

Monday, May 18, 2015

U.S. Envoy re Crime and Violence against Mexican Journalists

Ambassador E. Anthony Wayne

(Transcript of speech)

Octavio Paz once famously said, “Without democracy, freedom is a chimera.” But without freedom, particularly freedom of expression, democracy is also a chimera.

That is why World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993 on May 3. In countries around the globe, we take advantage of this date to commemorate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of the press throughout the world, defend the media from attacks on its independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Nowhere is this more relevant than in Mexico.

Mexico is one of our most important partners. Every day we trade well over a billion dollars in goods and services. Mexico is a vibrant democracy with strong institutions and a growing civil society. But this democracy, as is the case with any democracy around the world, depends on a free and effective press to ensure accountability and transparency.

According to Freedom in the World 2014, Freedom House’s annual country-by-country report on global political rights and civil liberties, the state of freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2013.  And here in Mexico, several non-government organizations, from the Committee to Protect Journalists, to Reporters without Borders, the Inter American Press Association and Article 19, have named Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Freedom House once again ranked Mexico as “not free because of ongoing violence against journalists carried out with impunity.”  Since I arrived in Mexico in September 2011, dozens of journalists have been killed while practicing their craft in pursuit of a better Mexico according to tallies by international watch dog groups.

Mexico has made progress on this front. It has established a Special Prosecutor for Attacks against Freedom of Expression and has a Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists and Human Rights Defenders. Both institutions were inspired by long-standing demands and recommendations from civil society. I continue to be impressed by the openness and willingness of Mexican government officials to address the serious human rights challenges the country faces.

But the levels of impunity remain alarmingly high, and we have yet to see a successful conviction at the federal level for crimes against journalists. Free and open societies must ensure that those responsible for attacks and acts of intimidation against the press are brought to justice, because impunity is an incentive for further attacks, and also leads to acts of self-censorship. And self-censorship is as effective at silencing a society as acts of violence are.

I remain optimistic that with the transition to the accusatorial system, Mexico’s judicial process will become stronger and more transparent. The United States stands committed to assist Mexico in these efforts through the Merida Initiative and other bilateral mechanisms.

Many years ago, I was the Christian Science Monitor’s national security correspondent. My experience as a journalist helped shape who I am. When I read about courageous Mexican journalists who continue to report despite threats and attacks, or who gave their lives for their profession and for the betterment of their community, I think about how blessed I was to be able to report freely. Every journalist, and every community, deserves that same opportunity and the right to freedom of expression.

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"Ambassador Urges More Attention to Protecting Journalists on World Press Freedom Day," transcript of speech by U.S. Ambassador E. Anthony Wayne, May 3, 2015; Embassy of the United States, Mexico City

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