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By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS

Just 24 hours after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) decried a report in Reforma noting that 56 human rights activists had been killed so far during his presidency as “false” and “a political conspiracy aimed at discrediting his administration,” the government’s own Secretariat of the Interior (Gobernación, or Segob) pointed out that the newspaper’s figures were indeed wrong: The real number of dead activists under his watch was 68.

On Monday, July 12, Segob issued a press release stating that between December 2018, when AMLO took office, and now, 43 journalists and 68 human rights defenders have been killed.

Segob issued a press release stating that between December 2018, when AMLO took office, and now, 43 journalists and 68 human rights defenders have been killed.

Given these numbers, Segob called on all local, state and federal authorities to “assume their duties to protect all persons at risk for the exercise of their professions.”

“The Secretariat of the Interior, as the operating institution of (the government’s) protection mechanism, has recognized that an element that makes the human rights crisis visible is the level of risk suffered by journalists and human rights defenders when carrying out their work throughout the country,” the report said.

According to data from Segob, the program currently provides protection to about 1,478 people nationwide, but nine of those killed were in the federal protection program.

Meanwhile, only six states in the country have local protection agencies: Veracruz, Colima, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Puebla and Mexico City.

The program, called the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists (MPPDDHP), was first established in 2012, but has so far prosecuted only a handful of cases and often brushes off victims after a summary investigation aimed more at incriminating the person being threatened than the alleged perpetrators.

One Pulse News Mexico journalist — who two years ago received multiple death threats for an article published in this media — was essentially told by the MPPDDHP that while the person who had made the threats was indeed linked to criminal elements, the reporter had brought the situation on themselves for daring to write unfavorable comments about the government.

The MPPDDHP even went so far as to tell the Pulse News Mexico journalist that the perpetrator of the threats was “entitled” to make those threats since it was a manifestation of their own freedom of expression.

The MPPDDHP even went so far as to tell the Pulse News Mexico journalist that the perpetrator of the threats was “entitled” to make those threats since it was a manifestation of their own freedom of expression.

The case was subsequently closed by the MPPDDHP.

While so far in AMLO’s six-year term, the number of people allegedly protected under that MPPDDHP, according to Segob, has increased by more than 80 individuals, the office continues to have little tangible evidence that journalists and human rights are being protected.

In point of fact, Jan-Albert Hootsen, the Mexico representative for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), told AP news service in June that “nothing has changed” for reporters in Mexico despite government promises to prevent such killings.

And the international press watchdog Freedom House has called Mexico “the most dangerous country in the Western hemisphere for the press, which operates amid a complex web of criminal, drug-trafficking gangs and entrenched official corruption.”

The CPJ has declared Mexico “the most dangerous country for reporters outside of war zones.”

The CPJ has declared Mexico “the most dangerous country for reporters outside of war zones.”

The Segob press release said that while the combined budget for the mechanism in 2019 and 2020 was 783 million pesos, this year it has a budget of 227.6 million pesos and Segob has requested an additional 189 million pesos to better attend threatened journalists and human rights activists.

And as for AMLO’s response to the Segob report, on Tuesday, July 13, the president said that while he “lamented the deaths” of slain journalists and human right activists, his government is “doing its job, working every day to save lives with total dedication to the cause of justice.”

Tell that to the 43 journalists and 68 human rights activists who have been murdered during his administration.

 

 

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