Police brutality: The new element of Mexico´s freedom of expression crisis?

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Ricardo Gonzalez

17 Dec 2012

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For many voices, the main problem of recently sworn in president, Enrique Peña, may be reduce to an “image problem”. The economy is moving in the right direction, violence has been contained in specific regions and legal reforms and special policies are already on its way to tackle some of the pending social issues that were neglected by the previous administrations.

At least it seems so, according to Andrew Selee from the Woodrow Wilson Institute, Peter Hakim from the Inter-American Dialogue, Shannon O'Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations and Jorge Casteñeda in Foreign Affairs capture this dominant position well, as well as Peña Nieto's own article in The Washington Post.

Mexico´s freedom of expression crisis was built over the last decade or so, violence against the press and human rights defenders is on the raise; there are no signs of  significant change in the medium term of the high media concentration and has in fact worsen in the recent years due to the ineffective regulatory organisms. Same thing is happening with the implementation of the access to information law both at the national and local level. The addition of all this elements presents a great deficit to President Enrique Peña Nieto for a rough start.

The sworn in ceremony of President Peña Nieto on December 1st was tainted by the protests outside the legislative headquarters that spread to the downtown area of Mexico City and evolved in clashes with the federal and local police. According to the police reports 70 protesters were arrested for disturbing the peace and were held for almost a week. The preliminary report of the investigation launched by the Mexico City Commission of Human Rights confirmed numerous arbitrary detentions of protesters and bystanders and least four cases of torture and ill treatment during detention.

Testimonies and the evidence gathered by human rights groups and media are giving account of the excessive and disproportionate use of forces by the federal and local police forces. Two journalists were arbitrarily arrested and one more was injured. A student lost an eye to one the rubber bullets that were shot directly to the demonstrators. 

The lack of proper protocols of the Mexican police and armed forces to safeguard the right of freedom of expression has been an issue of concern of ARTICLE19 for quite some time. According to our figures, in the last four years these institutions have been responsible of more than 60% of attacks against the journalists, media workers and outlets. Added to the long withstanding problems and challenges on freedom of expression, President Enrique Peña is now facing the dilemma of not implementing the necessary measures to ensure the free expression of the already mobilised opposition to his administrations and thus yielding to the temptation of repression. 

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