Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The law provides for press freedom, and improvements were made in the legal sector in 2006, but violence against journalists, impunity for such crimes, and subsequent self-censorship overshadowed gains. A new federal law gave journalists the right to protect confidential sources, and the Mexico City Assembly passed the first state-level shield law. The assembly also became the first state-level authority to eliminate criminal defamation. The lower house of Congress passed a similar proposal, and some expect a Senate vote to end federal criminal defamation in 2007; however, state-level defamation laws continued to pose problems for the press. A journalist was jailed in Chiapas under its criminal defamation statute, and two lawmakers in Michoacan filed charges against a journalist. The 2005 case against journalist and author Lydia Cacho was thrown out by the courts on a technicality. Based on recorded conversations between Puebla businessman Kamel Nacif Borge—whom Cacho alleged was indirectly involved in a child prostitution ring in her book Los Demonios del Eden—and Puebla governor Mario Marin plotting the journalist’s arrest, the Supreme Court ordered an investigation into the matter. Ironically, in 2006 a political ally of Governor Marin was named the new special prosecutor for crimes against journalists.
In 2006, a new Radio and Television Law was also passed, although a minority coalition of senators appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. Advocates of the two major TV networks, Televisa and TV Azteca, claimed that the law reduced political discretion for awarding broadcast concessions. Critics pointed out that it could solidify the two networks’ duopoly status, give away lucrative digital rights, and offer no financial or legal assistance for noncommercial broadcasters.
According to the Organization of American States, during 2006 a record nine journalists were killed, and in the majority of cases their deaths were likely connected to their profession. The journalists were targeted for their coverage of drug trafficking, organized crime, public corruption, and police brutality. The Popular Assembly of the District of Oaxaca attacked several journalists and took over media outlets throughout the year. Political violence in Oaxaca led to the deaths of two journalists. Raul Marcial Perez from the regional newspaper El Grafico was murdered on December 8 in Juxtlahuaca by gunmen who opened fire in the newsroom. Perez’s columns often criticized the local government. On October 27, an American cameraman for Indymedia, Bradley Will, was gunned down while covering protests in Oaxaca City. The shots came from an area where the municipal police were located. Two suspects were detained but released a month later, despite witness accounts of them firing in Will’s direction. The Office of the Special Prosecutor failed to solve any major crimes against the press but documented 108 complaints between February and November 2006. Threats against journalists were a major issue in 2006, as were arrests, and during the Oaxaca demonstrations, several news outlets were seized by protesters. Self-censorship along the drug-plagued northern border was well documented in testimonials. Attempts by media to investigate drug-related attacks were stalled by fear.
There is a diversity of perspectives represented in media in the largest cities, less so in smaller states and the countryside. Television remains limited because of concentration of wealth inherited from the authoritarian era. President Felipe Calderon’s six-year administration announced plans to create a third national commercial television network as well as several regional networks. Coupled with measures to strengthen noncommercial radio, this could increase media diversity. There are about 300 independently owned newspapers. The government does not restrict the internet, which was used by 19 percent of the population.