In Mexico, a journalist is attacked every 13 hours. The government is to blame

Mexico is torn between two opposing forces. On one side are the balaclava-clad sicarios and cartels of popular culture. On the other, a government that is becoming ever more obsessed with the appearance of power and glory. The army has been deployed to the streets across the country. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador talks frequently about subverting the constitution to allow his re-election.

For journalists, the imperative to report the truth has never been stronger. There are too many stories to tell – the realities of crime – the institutional corruption that has mired Mexico for some many years – the inefficiency of the flagship ‘Fourth Transformation’ that the current government has staked its reputation on.

Those involved in these stories, however, do not want them to be told. 2022 was one of the deadliest years on record for journalists in Mexico, with 12 murders, and was the most violent with 696 attacks recorded, according to a new report from Article 19. The overwhelming majority of these attacks will go unsolved. Many will never even be investigated.

Forty-two percent of the documented attacks are committed by state actors, the report says.

Nowhere are the problems facing journalists more apparent than in Ecatepec – a sprawling shanty town of squat, concrete dwellings, precariously perched on the mountainsides that surround the capital. Here, the contempt for the press is laid bare. Local journalists are targeted. Foreign journalists are threatened. Here, organised crime and governance go hand in hand.

Cody Copeland, a US journalist working in Mexico, attended a rally in the district, when he discovered that officials from the ruling Morena party in attendance were wearing medallions of Santa Muerte – the patron saint of cartels. The mayor himself was not a career politician, but, according to the newspaper Reforma, a former leader of a band of pirate taxis. Many fear criminal activities are now being carried out in an official capacity.

When questioned about why Ecatepec had seen no running water in five months, Copeland was violently removed from the press conference. Later, he said, a woman from the Morena party attempted to lure him away with promises of an exclusive interview – but residents intervened, suspecting he was likely to be attacked, and drove him away to safety, back in the city.

Copeland believes it is likely that his equipment would have been destroyed if he had been detained.

The greatest dangers are faced by those covering local affairs – where they are likely to be people known in their community. Reporters here are often targeted, and many are unable to leave their homes in fear of reprisals.

Carlos Flores is a local reporter, who lives in Ecatepec. Despite the fact reporting here has always been hard, he feels that under Morena things have only got worse.

“The current government we have is even harder than the previous ones. They are very tight-lipped. With previous governments, you still had some freedom [to report], but with the current one, I feel there are no guarantees for journalism – not in Ecatepec or anywhere else in the republic,” Flores said.

Flores has been attacked three times in recent years – twice, he said, by government forces.

When Flores is at the scene of a crime, police will often tell families not to speak to journalists – obscuring the extent to which the government has failed to handle crime in the area. If he persists, Flores explains, he is likely to be removed by police, and have his equipment destroyed.

President Obrador has frequently dismissed the idea of links between criminal gangs and government, as well as denying claims that large parts of Mexico being controlled by cartels and rubbishing reports that his government spies on activists, journalists and opponents. But the evidence suggests otherwise. Just last week, for example, it was confirmed that his government had monitored the phone of a human rights activist (Obrador said this was lawful, part of a probe into a suspected cartel member).

As for government support for the press, this is available but is largely funnelled into media conglomerates seen as friendly to Morena – La Jornada, Televisa and TV Azteca. These outlets are safe – allowing the appearance of supporting the press without risking serious adverse coverage or investigation.

To make matters worse, Obrador is currently embroiled in a battle to criminalise dissent against the government during election periods. While these reforms appear to have been defeated for now, his attempts to consolidate power are often directed at those who he believes to be naysayers – in particular journalists who are critical of his record.

It is not uncommon for Obrador to use his daily press conference to target individual journalists he believes have wronged him, and to decry outlets that have slighted him as pawns of the opposition, including Index on Censorship. This delegitimisation of the media is accepted by many of his supporters, who gleefully join him in deriding attempts to expose wrongdoing in an administration that appears – despite pleas to the contrary – as corrupt as those that came before.

The presidential elections next year will likely see a new Morena candidate elected to power.  The question for Mexico is – will they value freedom of the press?

Article 19 launches campaign calling for more transparency and accountability around online content removal

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Article 19 - missing voices

“Are social media companies publishers or platforms?” Juliet Oosthuysen, who was recently banned from Twitter for expressing an opinion regarding the UK’s Gender Recognition Act, asked at a panel discussion to launch Article 19’s Missing Voices campaign on 20 June.

Oosthuysen was joined by Jennifer Robinson, a barrister who specialises in international media law, Paulina Gutierrez, an international human rights lawyer who has worked on developing the digital rights agenda for Article 19, and Pavel Marozau, an online activist whose satirical films have been removed from YouTube. The event was co-sponsored by Index on Censorship.

Article 19 is an organisation devoted to protecting freedom of expression. Missing Voices is its campaign to call for more transparency and accountability from the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube over content removal. The aim is to protect online free expression in the complex web of intellectual property laws, community standards, algorithms and government censorship mandates that regulate what can and cannot be posted on social media platforms.

As described in Article 19’s 2018 policy brief, Missing Voices’ mission is to “Call on social media platforms to respect due process guarantees in the content moderation and account suspension or removal processes, create clear and transparent mechanisms to enforce such guarantees, and at the same time, call for them to align their policies with their responsibility to respect human rights, set out in the Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights.”

As social media now spans hundreds of countries and their respective laws surrounding censorship, companies have to either model universally applied community standards to fit within every country’s unique laws or to impose standards unique to each country. This can create overly strict restrictions or even more barriers to free expression. Robinson said: “If any one country can determine that their takedown requirements based on their own free speech standards can be applied globally then we are going to see a race to the bottom of what is available online.”

In the breakout session that followed the panel, various groups discussed the difficulty in balancing the protection of opinions expressed online and fighting against the rampant harassment faced by ethnic, racial, sexual or gender minorities. The line between what is and is not acceptable is often blurry, argued multiple panellists, and is even more so when the decisions about what content to remove and which users to ban are increasingly made by artificial intelligence or algorithms. Speaking about her own experience with being banned and her multiple fruitless attempts to regain her Twitter account, Oosthuysen said: “A person made the decision to terminate my account, and I would like to speak with a person to get it reinstated, not an algorithm.”

Community standards are difficult to navigate. One audience member jokingly suggested social media platforms institute a “cooling off period,” so that users could be protected from censorship for posts made in the heat of the moment following a tragedy. This is not, in fact, a new suggestion: human Facebook content moderators are encouraged to consider recent personal events, such as romantic upheaval,  when deciding whether to remove a piece of content that expresses hatred towards a gender, for example. However, the idea that circumstances could excuse certain content that was otherwise inexcusable is difficult to enshrine in community standards that are supposed to be universally implemented. Algorithms — and even human censors — are not always able to determine when a piece of content is intended as a joke or whether it is condoned by the perceived target.

Marozau said that when attempting to understand what community standards he had broken, it was obvious content-sharing platforms “can’t say clearly what they’re against”. Marozau’s film attacked Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, and he was subsequently persecuted by the Belarusian government. His film, which he does not believe violated any community standards, was removed shortly after. It can often be difficult, noted Robinson, to determine the reason for the removal of a piece of content, and when removals are manipulated for political ends rather than legitimate online harassment.

There have been instances — some quite recent — when content-sharing platforms have been criticised for censorship after barring high-profile users whose content has been controversial. For example, American far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was censored and banned by Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and Twitter, platforms that haven’t pursued many accounts with less followers but more violent rhetoric. Community standards, it seems, are applied most frequently to send a message rather than act punitively.

The Missing Voices campaign seeks to counteract censorship and consolidate laws and community standards wherever possible. The campaign will lobby media companies by spreading the message of free speech through social media influencers, marginalised groups, employees of the companies and shareholders.

According to Gutierrez: “If we put all the processes together, then we can… find inconsistencies between the actual responses and what [social media companies] are publishing in their transparency reports.” Gutierrez hopes that clarifying the regulations about posting will lead to better awareness about when community standards and laws are used fairly and when for political ends, and that doing so will make social media platforms more conducive to free speech. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1561458322739-c029debc-beba-1″ taxonomies=”4883, 16927″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Losing a point of reference: Press freedom in the US

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By Nicole Ntim-Addae and Long Dang. With additional reporting by Shreya Parjan and Sandra Oseifri.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”100888″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]“What do we do next? We are losing our point of reference. The loss of the United States and the United Kingdom as democratic beacons for the rights of journalists and the freedom of information is a bad omen for the rest of the world.”

The question was raised by Javier Garza of Article 19, a British human rights organisation, at the discussion about the growing threats to press freedom in the United States that took place at the Free Word Centre on Thursday 14 June. The panel was held to explore the findings of the unprecedented mission to the USA undertaken by six press freedom groups — Index on Censorship, Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists, IFEX, International Press Institute, and Reporters Without Borders—in January 2018. Representatives of the groups conducted interviews with journalists in St. Louis, Missouri, Houston, Texas, and Washington DC. Their findings were published in a mission report in May 2018.

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, stated the motivation behind the mission. “It is unusual for press freedom organisations to take a mission to the US”, she said. “According to the findings of the mission, violations of freedom of press and freedom of information may be closer to home.” The mission was carried out in recognition that discussions regarding press freedom are taken for granted in democracies in a way that they are not in authoritarian states.

At the same time, Trump’s hostile rhetoric directed against the US press is problematic for press worldwide. Rebecca Vincent, UK bureau director of Reporters Without Borders, noted that the Trumpian denunciation of the press as “fake news” and “enemies of the people” is gradually becoming a global phenomenon.

Vincent, Ginsberg, and Dave Banisar, senior legal counsel of Article 19 were moderated by Paddy Coulter, director of communications at Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative and member of the Article 19 board,  to review the mission.

According to the US Press Freedom Tracker, there were 34 arrests of journalists made by the authorities in 2017 alone. Along with that, there has been a noticeable uptick in border controls since 2017, with journalists being searched, forced to hand over their phones for inspection, and denied entry into the U.S. This kind of problematic border control renders it extremely difficult for journalists to travel for work. Moreover, the excessive phone screening not only poses a violation of journalists’ right to privacy, but also a risk to the safety of their sources.

“The US office [of RSF] now puts out a weekly violations report because there are so many of them” said Vincent. The UK is currently ranked 40th out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom, according to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index. The US is faring worse, ranking at 45th. Since the beginning of 2018 alone, two journalists have been arrested and 12 have been attacked. The panelists noted that these problems did not start with the Trump administration. “Don’t get complacent. The beautiful [Clinton-Bush-Obama]  administration’s era when nothing went wrong hasn’t existed for a long time.” said Banisar.

Banisar explained how little protection there is for whistleblowers and their sources under the Espionage Act of 1917. It is important to note that the improper use of the act had started before the Trump administration: under the Obama administration, the act was used to prosecute more whistleblowers than ever before. Banisar highlighted the case of Reality Winner, the former NSA contractor who was incarcerated only a few days after she released information that the Russians had hacked the 2016 presidential election. Jen Robinson from Article 19, an Australian human rights lawyer and barrister with Doughty Street Chambers in London and advisor to Julian Assange WikiLeaks founder noted that Wikileaks’ 2010 investigation was unprecedented. Never before has the Espionage Act been used in a civil lawsuit as that would have set the stage for larger news agencies such as The New York Times.

How could we do better?

Ginsberg stressed the importance of  “reverse education” – that is, showing people how to navigate the negative environments. Border stops, according to her, are “a deeply concerning intrusion on the confidentiality of a reporter’s sources”. Accordingly, when journalists travel to the US to work, they should be aware of the situation and take steps to protect themselves and their sources.  In that vein, Index has provided a journalist tool kit drawing from the experience of journalists who have had to deal with problems first hand. It has also corroborated with the Missouri School of Journalism in Project Exile, which documents the experience of journalists forced to live in exile because of their work.

Vincent reaffirmed that the hostile rhetoric directed at journalists needs to stop, since “the line between hateful, hostile terms and violence against journalists is blurring”.  Bainsar emphasized that legal changes needs to be made to facilitate the free flow of information. He also stated that the US government needs to strive to improve its laws on source protection, protection for whistleblowers and statutory rights. Banisar calls for the Espionage Act of 1917 to be “ceremonially buried”.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Ginsberg, pointing to the demonstrations taking place around the world, commented that there is “still a huge appetite to assemble freely”. Banisar reported that the influx of cash flow into organisations such as the ACLU and HRW shows citizens are aware that press freedom violations are not problems they want to see coming back. He also reminded the audience that  the president could just serve four years, and there are rules and regulations that would keep him in check. Despite Trump’s adamant dismissal of climate change, 10,000 documents— obtained through the US’s landmark Freedom of Information Laws—from the Environmental Protect Agency were published in The New York Times this past week, demonstrating that there is still professionalism in the use of laws.

“There are still those with liberal values.” said Rebecca Vincent. “There is a younger generation of journalists who care about issues. It’s also about making people realize that this is not just the happening in the ‘world’. This is happening in our borders. We must stand up to our own standards.” [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1529312741775-6402968b-d0c0-9″ taxonomies=”9044″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Media freedom in the US under threat, report finds


  • Threats to media increased during the Obama administration, which brought record number of whistleblower prosecutions.
  • President Trump’s verbal attacks on the media have worsened a hostile climate to the press.
  • Journalists’ ability to report is being undermined by attacks, arrests, border stops, searches of devices, prosecution of whistleblowers and restrictions on the release of public information.
  • Latest report comes after US falls two places on the RSF World Press Freedom Index.

The United States media – one of the best protected in the world – is facing challenges that threaten the freedom of the press. This is the finding of an unprecedented press freedom mission that took place in January 2018, one year after President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration.

The mission’s report was published on May 3, 2018, World Press Freedom Day. It shows that President’s Trump’s attacks on the media, via his Twitter account and in press conferences, are exacerbating an already hostile environment for journalists in the US.

By openly and aggressively accusing journalists and media outlets of lying and producing ‘fake news’, the current US administration risks undermining the First Amendment and creating a culture of intimidation and hostility where journalists find themselves less safe.

However, the report also identifies threats to the media that pre-date Trump. Many were present under the Obama administration, which used the Espionage Act 1917 to bring a record number of whistleblower prosecutions.

Other major threats to media freedom in the US include:

  • A failure by law enforcement officials to recognise the rights of journalists to report freely on events of public interest. Journalists have been arrested and even assaulted by law enforcement officials at a local and state level, while covering protests.
  • An increase in border stop and searches. Journalists have been asked to hand over electronic devices, detained or even denied entry to the US.
  • A slow and unresponsive freedom of information system, which is preventing the release of information that is in the public interest.


Quotes from participating organisations:

Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive Officer, Index on Censorship said:

“The pressures that journalists are facing in the US are reflective of the toxic atmosphere toward journalism being stoked by global leaders. Animosity toward the press is undermining the public’s right to information.”

Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director, CPJ said:

“The President’s hostility towards the press is trickling down to states and local communities, where officials are refusing interviews, denigrating the press, and obstructing access to information.

“This report should be a wake-up call to everyone—especially those in power—to the very real threats to freedom of the press in the U.S.”

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19 said:

“The alarming rise in threats to press freedom in the US over recent years must be challenged. Not only do these threats impact on freedom of expression in the US, but they have repercussions around the world.

“A free press is a vital part of democracy. The rights of US journalists must be protected so that they can continue to report freely on matters of public interest and hold the powerful to account.

Annie Game, Executive Director, IFEX said:

“Members of IFEX know from experience that efforts to control, degrade and disable a free press will always be met with great gestures of solidarity and resistance, and it will be no different in the US.”

Christophe Deloire, RSF Secretary General said:

“This joint report highlights the very real threats journalists are facing in the country of the First Amendment. But what is increasingly alarming is President Trump’s constant media bashing. Trump himself is dangerous for press freedom, but the Trumpisation of the treatment of journalists at the local level is equally, if not more, dangerous.”  

Martha Steffens, IPI North American Chair said:

“All across the US we are feeling the effects of a relentless attack on the role of the press in our society. The constant bashing out of Washington is emboldening local officials to obstruct and interfere with the important watchdog role of the media.  It is clearly an attempt to discredit the media in an attempt to divert attention from government mismanagement or wrongdoing. A great America depends on unfettered freedom of the press”

The full report is available here.


For media interviews, please contact:

RSF: Margaux Ewen, RSF North America Director [email protected]

Index: Sean Gallagher, Head of Content, [email protected]

IPI: Martha Steffens, IPI North America Committee chair, [email protected]

ARTICLE 19: Pam Cowburn, Communications Consultant [email protected]


Notes to Editor

  • The 2018 press mission was organised by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and IFEX, and included ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship, International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF – Reporters Sans Frontières).
  • The mission took place between January 15-19. It included fact-finding visits to Columbia and St. Louis in Missouri, and Houston in Texas; remote interviews with journalists in Wisconsin and Illinois; and meetings with senior policymakers and national media representatives in Washington.
  • In April 2018, it was announced that the United States had fallen two places in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index. It is now ranked 45 out of 180 countries for press freedom.
  • In 2017, 30 press freedom groups came together to create the US Press Freedom Tracker, which documents press violations in the US. These violations include journalists being arrested, charged, stopped at borders or having their devices seized and searched. Visit to access this information.