The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today condemned the decision by Mexico’s Budget and Public Account Commission to abolish a fund that supports a protection mechanisms for threatened journalists and human rights defenders.
n September 29, Mexico’s Budget and Public Account Commission approved the closure of 109 funds, including the fund allocated to upholding the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists (LPPDHP), whose purpose, as stated in its first article, it to “operate preventive and emergency measures that guarantee the life, integrity, liberty and security of persons in high-risk situations as a consequence of their defence or promotion of human rights, or the exercise of freedom of expression and journalism.”
The decision to close the fund is a major blow to the protection of journalists in a country which has recorded the highest number of killings of journalists over the past few years. According to IPI’s Death Watch, as many as 55 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2016. So far this year, eight journalists have lost their lives. Just this month, a Mexican journalist was beheaded in Veracruz.
“IPI is disappointed and disturbed by Mexico’s decision to cut funding for journalist protection despite remaining the world’s most dangerous country for the press”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “This decision sends a very wrong signal and is another indication that the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is not serious about ending a journalist safety crisis that has last now for nearly 15 years. Lawmakers must either withdraw this decision or find an alternative way of properly funding the mechanism.”
Since its establishment in 2012, the LPPDHP has benefited over 1,206 individuals, 33 percent of which were journalists, through its Federal Mechanism, which analyses risks to journalists or human rights defenders and offers protection plans accordingly. According to government reports, the fund had received USD 1.9 million in its first year, 7.7 million in 2013, and 12.6 million in 2014.
However, the LPPDHP has been cited as being under-funded for years. In 2018, Mexico’s United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Office expressed their concern over the “critically low” funds allocated to the LPPDHP for the second consecutive year, at a time when it was struggling financially to protect 959 at-risk journalists and activists.
In March that year, Senator and President of the Human Rights Commission Kenia López Rabadán stated that the Mechanism had run out of funds and “only out of social pressure” did the Budget and Public Account Commission agree to remit 3.5 million dollars to the fund.
Moreover, in March 2019 legislative measures were proposed in an attempt to reform the LPPDHP and abolish its governing board, which decides protection plan assignments. This proposal was described by ex-members of the board as “an act of violence against activists and journalists”.
In May this year, Xicoténcatl Carrasco, president of the Federal Advisory Council of the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, complained that the Federal Mechanism’s budget was only around 227 million pesos (10 million US dollars), a quantity that he said “did not reflect the urgency” of their work in the country.