Attacks against journalists in Mexico go unpunished

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02 Nov 2014


International Day to End Impunity reminds us that for journalists attacked in Mexico, there is no access to justice.

On Friday, January 4, 2013, journalist Carmen Olsen was attacked by police on Rosarito Beach. Olsen typically worked in the mornings on the streets of the city of Rosarito to document abuse of power by authorities in the states neighbouring the US border.
The journalist was not only a victim of beatings, threats and arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but is also faced with criminal proceedings following accusations by the police that she verbally abused them.

Despite evidence available – photographs, videos, medical examinations, witness statements and contradictions in the statements of the police – Carmen Olsen is still trying to get justice. Unfortunately, the physical and emotional injuries as a result of the attack have prevented her from returning to work for many months.

Olsen filed a criminal case against the police and the responsible authorities. However, in a miscalculation, the Attorney General of Baja California erroneously filed the case in April of this year, and for this reason Olsen’s search for justice is ongoing.

Olsen also put in a request for protection measures from the protection mechanism within the National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) so that she would be protected against further attacks whether for her journalistic work or as a result of the investigation into the reported assault.  However, up until now, she has still not received any effective protection measures.

In Mexico, human rights are institutionalized. The federal government uses the CNDH and the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) to make ambiguous statements to assert that citizen’s rights are fully guaranteed. As a result, these bodies are reduced mouth pieces for officials.

Carmen Olsen's case is a clear example of a trend seen in attacks against media workers in Mexico: a lack of a proper and independent investigation. That is, Carmen Olsen is part of the vast majority of journalists who are still waiting for truth and justice.

Since 2000, 82 journalists have been murdered for their journalistic work. The vast majority of these killings remain unpunished. So far this year, ARTICLE 19 has documented 222 attacks on the press, all of which remain unpunished. ARTICLE 19 has also reported that 43% of attacks against the press, in 2014 so far, were committed by the authorities.

The failure of institutions to fulfil their duty to protect the rights of Olsen and other journalists underlines the need for the international community to join together with Mexican civil society to counter the prevailing impunity.

An attack on a journalist is an attack on society. Violence against the press has serious ramifications because it violates the right to information and freedom of expression of members of the public. The panorama of violence against the press raises serious questions about democracy in Mexico.


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