Knight Center
Knight Center

JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Advisory Council implemented in order to guarantee efficiency of Mexico City’s protection mechanism for journalists



Before strong criticism of its inefficiency, and the escalating number of attacks and murders of journalists and human rights defenders that Mexico has experienced in the last almost two decades, the Advisory Council for the Mechanism for the Integral Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in Mexico City was finally implemented. The council will seek to make this system in the country’s capital more efficient.

Gerardo Albarrán de Alba, president of the Advisory Council for the Mechanism of Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in Mexico City. Photo: Noemí Gutiérrez/ CapitalMedia.

The first president of the Consultative Council is Gerardo Albarrán de Alba, a Mexican journalist with a long professional and institutional career who was unanimously elected by his peers, the other six members of the Council, on Jan. 22. Albarrán de Alba will preside over the Board for the next four years.

As Albarrán de Alba explained to the Knight Center, the Advisory Council is a civil entity for consultation, opinion, guidance and monitoring of the work of the Mechanism and its Governing Board in the capital.

According to the Law for the Integral Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists of the Federal District, which created the Mechanism, the Advisory Council will attend consultations and formulate opinions as requested by the Governing Board, another entity within the Mechanism. It will also make recommendations on the programs and projects carried out by the Mechanism, in addition to contributing to the design of the annual work plan. It will contribute to the promotion of public actions, programs and projects related to the law’s objectives.

At the federal level, the Mechanism was created at the end of the government of President Felipe Calderón, in 2012. The main motivation for its creation was for the government to have tools and resources to help protect, promote and guarantee the safety of human rights defenders and journalists who are attacked because of their work.

Although the Mexico City Mechanism has been operating since it was created by the Law in August 2015, it took two years to finish implementing the Advisory Council. Its members were named just at the end of November 2017. In addition to Albarrán de Alba, they are Jan Albert Hootsen, Yared Guadalupe Tzoni, Diana López Santiago, Carla Inés Ríos Nava and Luis Alberto Zamora.

"[These two years were] a valuable time that should serve to refine not only the the Mechanism’s ability to react and coordination with all the institutions that make up its Governing Board, but also to build full security conditions for the defense of rights human rights and the professional practice of journalism," Albarrán de Alba said.

"We will have to correct this anomaly and contribute to the best design of risk assessment measures, case by case, and to follow up on its effective compliance by the Government of Mexico City," he emphasized.

Regarding his expectations in the position, Albarrán de Alba commented that his task will not be simple, mainly due to the "burden of a culture of simulation that attacks citizens.” He added that violence and impunity should be exceptional situations, however, "they are systematic practices that require the existence of the Protection Mechanism and its citizen Advisory Council."

In addition to participating in the annual planning of the Mechanism, they will also help to develop preventive protection programs. "When the case arises, we are empowered to issue opinions on the general functioning of the Governing Board or about complaints received from persons under the Mechanism's protection," Albaarrán de Alba said.

On the formation of the Council, the head of the Secretariat of Government of Mexico City, Patricia Mercado Castro, said on the official website of the government entity that "it was necessary to have a broad debate, to review multiple profiles and that Consensus will be formed so that the Council has the necessary strength to promote effective decisions in the Mechanism."

Mercado also noted that the capital government maintains its vocation to be a refuge for those who are persecuted in their home towns due to their professional or political activity.

Mexico City is one of the country’s states where the greatest number of attacks against the press is recorded. The organization Article 19 of Mexico, in its 2016 annual report recorded 71 attacks against media and journalists in Mexico City. The other states with the greatest number of attacks on the press in 2016 were Oaxaca (60), Veracruz (58), Puebla (28) and Guerrero (26).

In August 2017, the Human Rights Commission of the Federal District (CDHDF, for its initials in Spanish) urged the capital’s authorities to complete the effective and complete implementation of the Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists and Human Rights Defenders in Mexico City.

Due to the situation of violence that presses journalists and human rights defenders in the country, and especially in Mexico City, and after two years of publication of the law that created the protection mechanism in the capital, the CDHDF also maintained months ago that it was urgent to have the Mechanism in full. And that this, the Commission pointed out, should meet the economic and political conditions, and all the qualified material and human resources necessary to guarantee that those who are attacked in the exercise of their work within Mexico City can count on the political will and commitment of the authorities ".

Civil society organizations and Mexican academic institutions demanded that the government create a Special Prosecutor for Human Rights that is efficient and that has the support of an Advisory Council against impunity, Article 19 of Mexico reported. This proposal was made on Feb. 9, during the presentation of the report "Right to the Truth in Mexico. Scope and limitations in cases of serious human rights violations."

Among the organizations and universities, and authors of the aforementioned report are Article 19 of Mexico and Central America, the Human Rights Program of the Ibero-American University of Mexico, the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, and others.

"Journalism is an exercise in freedom. Journalists can only work under that condition. Their moral integrity and their personal and professional dignity must be protected, because when they are violated, free public opinion is undermined," Albarrán de Alba said.

From 200o to 2017, 130 journalists have been killed in Mexico, according to the 2017 report from the country’s National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH). Veracruz (21), Oaxaca (15), Tamaulipas (14), Guerrero (14), Chihuahua (14) and Sinaloa are the states with the greatest incidence of murders of press professionals. These data do not include those that have been disappeared.



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