Mexico | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Mexico

Mexico

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

48

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

22

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

13

The law provides for freedom of the press, but there were few positive developments in 2005. The Senate approved a law to protect the confidentiality of sources, and journalists fought for the right to access public records. In Mexico City, legislators extended the types of government records available to the public under local access to information legislation. However, the state's failure to reestablish democratic authority eroded press freedom more than any year since the Institutional Revolutionary Party regime left power in 2000. Concerns stemmed from the inability to control drug trafficking, powerful broadcasters' attempts to capture state regulatory capacity, and the selective enforcement of authoritarian press legislation.

State-level politicians used weak judiciaries and criminal defamation cases to punish journalists whose work irked them. The most infamous case involved journalist and human rights activist Lydia Cacho. Cacho, who published a book alleging the involvement of important businessmen in a child prostitution ring, was detained December 16 in Cancun and driven incommunicado for 680 miles to Puebla to face defamation charges. She was held for 30 hours before being brought before a judge and faces up to four years in prison. Broadcast recordings of conversations between a businessman and Puebla's governor indicate they plotted to harass the journalist. In another conversation, the businessman suggested to an associate that Cacho be assaulted in prison. In a separate case, columnist Isabel Arvide awaited sentencing on a criminal defamation conviction in Chihuahua state.

The year proved as lethal as 2004, with 54 complaints of violence against the media being filed to the Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos by July. On July 18, 31 staff members from the newspaper Noticias were forced to evacuate their building as attackers destroyed their equipment under police observation. In a spate of attacks in April, newspaper reporter Alfredo Jimenez Mota disappeared in Sonora and is feared dead. Radio reporter Guadalupe Garcia Escamilla was fatally shot in Tamaulipas, while Veracruz newspaper owner Raul Gibb was murdered several days later. The first two cases were related to drug reporting, and the third may also have been. Journalists in the most conflict-ridden areas said they received both bribe offers and threats from traffickers. In zones along the U.S. border, journalists regularly censored themselves as a result of intimidation, even about high-level crime and corruption. On the other hand, journalists organized like never before, demanding federal investigations during marches throughout the country. Newspaper executives pledged to publish joint investigations of the crimes. President Vicente Fox promised to create a federal prosecutor for crimes against journalists, given the ineffectiveness of state-level officials.

Lack of competition is most notable in the broadcast television industry, where the state has failed to promote diversity. The major networks, Televisa and TV Azteca, together control about 95 percent of the viewing audience and 99 percent of the television advertising market. Televisa is the dominant player with about 75 percent of the market share for advertisements. The network flexed its muscles in December when the lower house of Congress unanimously passed a law that critics say squeezes smaller players from the broadcast and cable markets, allows the government to award free digital concessions to current broadcast concession holders, extends concessions 40 years, fixes the regulatory body so that the incoming president cannot appoint new members, and weakens noncommercial radio. The initiative was stopped in the Senate by a coalition of academics, those who hoped to enter expanding markets, and noncommercial broadcasters, but taped conversations between Televisa lobbyists and key senators suggested incentives and arm-twisting might overcome resistance. None of the major presidential candidates, all of whom need Televisa coverage to win the July election, have criticized the network. Little independent local television production exists, and interference in state-owned local television is relatively high. Although radio is more diverse and competitive than television, the major chains led by Televisa moved to crowd out smaller competitors. Diversity in the print media is robust in Mexico City, and most state capitals have at least one newspaper that has taken steps to separate commercial and editorial interests. Owners' interests influence news depending upon their business model and journalistic philosophy, and some reporters complain that press assertiveness on political corruption has waned. The internet is open and unrestricted by the government, with approximately 17 million users documented in 2005.