ARTICLE 19 is extremely concerned about yesterday’s statement by the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, in relation to recent revelations documented by ARTICLE 19 Mexico and partners on the use of surveillance technology against journalists, victims of human rights violations and human rights defenders in Mexico. In his statement, the President asserted that the state prosecutor should launch an investigation of those who have raised “false accusations.”
President Peña Nieto made a statement in response to reports in the press that advanced spyware, sold to the Mexican Government for law enforcement and national security purposes, has also been used against prominent journalists and activists. When addressing the allegations in a speech on 22 June 2017, at Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, President Peña Nieto stated “I hope that the prosecutor will quickly delimit all responsibilities, and hope that the law can be applied against those who have raised false accusations.”
Although the President’s Office later stated that the statement was “not a threat” and he “misspoke” or “did not explain himself properly”, ARTICLE 19 believes that such statements create a chilling effect on independent reporting of wrongdoing by the state and are an attempt to intimidate those who uncovered serious human rights violations by public authorities.
“ARTICLE 19 calls on the Mexican Government to urgently assure the public that there will be no investigation of those who uncovered these serious human rights violations and brought them to the attention of the public. They must also refrain from any further threats of any kind against journalists, victims and human rights defenders, including ARTICLE 19 Mexico,” said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.
“At the same time, there must be an immediate, thorough and independent investigation into the use of surveillance technology in Mexico. The Government must make sure that any practices that fail to meet international human rights standards in this area are swiftly eliminated and those responsible are held to account,” continued Hughes.
ARTICLE 19 believes that, instead of targeting the media and civil society for revealing these practices, the Mexican Government should consider this an opportunity to acknowledge that the mass and illegal targeted surveillance of communications has a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression in the country. It must make sure that any use of surveillance technology fully complies with international human rights standards, in particular the right to freedom of expression, privacy and due process of law and must introduce comprehensive legal and practical safeguards against this type of abuse. Doing otherwise will seriously diminish the public’s ability to obtain information on serious human rights violations and contribute to an erosion of fundamental values in Mexico as a democratic society.