Mexico rejects European resolution on press freedom: ‘We are no longer anyone’s colony’
Mexico’s government delivered on Thursday an unorthodox and sardonic response to a European Parliament resolution calling on it to increase protections for the press and human rights advocates, amid a rising number of journalist killings in the country.
Mexico’s response, delivered through official channels as an unsigned open letter to European members of Parliament, opened by calling on members to stop their “corruption, lies and hypocrisy.”
“It is regrettable that you would join like sheep to the reactionary and coup-plotting strategy of the corrupt group that opposes the Fourth Transformation, propelled by millions of Mexicans to confront the monstrous inequality and the violence inherited by the neoliberal economic policy that for 36 years was imposed in our country,” read the letter.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration was reacting to a resolution passed Thursday by the European Parliament which “calls on the authorities, and in particular the highest ones, to refrain from issuing any communication which could stigmatise human rights defenders, journalists and media workers, exacerbate the atmosphere against them or distort their lines of investigation.”
The López Obrador administration’s response touched on a series of bilateral and global issues, from boasting about Mexico’s “pacifism” for not sending weapons into a war zone — in a thinly veiled allusion to European military assistance to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion — to López Obrador’s approval ratings: “by the way with higher approval than European rulers.”
“Next time, inform yourselves and read well the resolutions that you are presented with before casting your vote. And don’t forget that we are no longer anyone’s colony. Mexico is a free, independent and sovereign country,” read the letter.
The European resolution came as six journalists have been killed in Mexico in 2022 in connection to their work, making Mexico the deadliest country in the world to practice journalism.
López Obrador has downplayed the government’s role in protecting the murdered journalists, arguing that they have been killed by criminal elements, not by direct actions of the Mexican state.
Still, he has been quick to single out and publicly criticize journalists who he views as opponents of his administration.
“The president in his daily press conference keeps on stigmatizing the journalists, attacking publications, the critical outlets. We consider that one of the most deadly countries for journalists. It’s not possible, it’s not acceptable, to have a president that attacks journalists every day,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the Latin America desk chief for Reporters Without Borders.
“I’m not saying he’s encouraging murders, but that he should change the way he talks about the press,” added Colombié.
López Obrador in February railed against Secretary of State Antony Blinken, after the top U.S. diplomat expressed concerns about killings of journalists in Mexico.
Colombié said López Obrador has often taken personally any criticism from abroad, including in cases like Blinken’s concerns or the EU’s resolution, which did not mention López Obrador directly.
In its letter to the EU, the Mexican government weaved accusations of colonialism and undue interference in domestic affairs, while repeating López Obrador’s claims that journalists are free to exercise their profession in Mexico.
“Know European members of Parliament, that Mexico has ceased to be a land of conquest and, like in very few times throughout its history, the libertarian principles of equality and democracy are being upheld. Nobody is repressed here, the right to freedom of expression and the work of journalists is respected. The state does not violate human rights as previous governments did, when you, by the way, were complicitly silent,” read the letter.
But conditions for journalists have worsened dramatically over the past few months, even as journalism has been a dangerous profession in Mexico for decades.
“We know about the situation described in the resolution, we believe it’s very important to have a strong reaction from the EU Parliament because it’s not only a Mexican problem and it’s important to put pressure on Mexican authorities at this moment,” said Colombié.
Colombié added that, on top of the verified murders of journalists in 2022, Reporters Without Borders is investigating whether a seventh murder was related to the victim’s profession.
“If we reach seven cases in a bit more than two months, it means we have the same number of murders than in 2021,” he said.
And while none of the murders are suspected as having been ordered by Mexican federal authorities, Reporters Without Borders has linked government corruption at a local level to increased levels of danger for journalists operating in specific states and municipalities.
“We observe a direct connection between organized crime and places where journalists are killed,” said Colombié.
The federal government has a mechanism for the protection of journalists and human rights advocates, but that mechanism has failed in at least one high-profile murder.
In January, reporter Lourdes Maldonado was shot dead in Tijuana, despite being under the protection of the federal mechanism.
Maldonado had in 2019 personally told López Obrador at his daily press conference that she feared for her life amid a labor dispute with Jaime Bonilla, a former governor of Baja California who is also a former U.S. elected official and a close ally of López Obrador.
After Maldonado’s death, Bonilla publicly denied any involvement and downplayed the labor lawsuit, which Maldonado won shortly before being murdered.
Investigations into Maldonado’s murder have not yet yielded results, in a country where few, if any, murders of journalists are resolved.
“Metween 95 percent and 100 percent of cases of murders and forced disappearances of journalists stay in impunity regarding intellectual authors. Sometimes material [authors] of the crimes are arrested and sentenced,” said Colombié.
“It’s like encouragement from authorities to commit crimes against the press,” he added.