News Around the Republic of Mexico
|President Calderon: Drug Gangs Biggest Threat to Press|
E. Eduardo Castillo - Associated Press
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November 09, 2010
Merida, Mexico — President Felipe Calderon warned this week that organized crime has become the biggest threat to press freedoms in Mexico.
Calderon said Mexico, which emerged from a system of virtual one-party rule a decade ago, has made strides against government censorship. He noted that under his government, defamation and slander have been decriminalized.
But now many newspapers are stifling their coverage for fear of drug gangs, he said.
"You can openly criticize the president or the government ... In this administration, there has never been gag laws or censorship," Calderon said at the annual meeting of the Inter American Press Association, a Miami-based organization that groups newspapers across the Western Hemisphere.
"Now the great threat to freedom of expression in our country, and other parts of the world, without a doubt, is organized crime," Calderon added.
Many small newspapers in the most violent regions of Mexico, especially the northern areas bordering the United States, acknowledge that they no longer cover drug-gang violence because their reporters have been threatened or killed.
At least 11 journalists have been killed in Mexico this year, according to the press association, known as IAPA. The country has become the most dangerous in the Americas for journalists.
Calderon said his government has promised to create a security protocol for journalists, and has already taken some steps, including creating a special prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression.
However, that prosecutor's office has been criticized for failing to resolve most attacks on reporters.
Mexican journalists have also said that official influence over news coverage remains a problem in this country because government advertising is a major source of revenue for many publications.
IAPA Vice President Gonzalo Marroquin urged Mexican media to unite and create their own strategy to protect themselves against traffickers.
"We've found there is great common interest but little common action" among Mexican journalists, Marroquin said.
Diana Carolina Duran, of the Colombian daily El Espectador, said newspapers in her country confronted criminal gangs by conducting joint investigations that would run at the same time in numerous publications.
At a recent forum in Mexico, journalists discussed adopting such a plan.
IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre, meanwhile, criticized Cuba for its lack of freedom of expression.
"Cuba remains the dark point in the map of the Americas, and it still won't wake up," Aguirre said in a speech at formal inauguration of the meeting.
"This is one of the biggest embarrassments of our humanity. It should not be tolerated. A half-century of dictatorship. It's enough," Aguirre said.