Mexico is the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere for media, with a total of 80 journalists murdered since 2000 and 14 disappearing since 2003. Journalists face a toxic mix of rampant impunity, self-censorship, and under-funded state protection and safety mechanisms.
In 2006, President Felipe Calderon launched a federal offensive against drug trafficking that deployed the military to the worst affected areas of the country. This military surge has seen an exorbitant rise of infighting between drug cartels and organised crime syndicates, as well as a spate of human rights abuses by security forces, leaving over 50,000 people dead.
Following the country’s July 2012 elections, attacks on the press have continued to spiral out of control, particularly in the North of the country – Nuevo León, Sonora, Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Coahuila – as well as Central areas such as Morelos and Veracruz. Existing state protection mechanisms (both federal and local) remain limited and only serve to reinforce the displacement of reporters from the states to Mexico City.
In 2008, in an unprecedented initiative in response to an explosion of violence against the press, IMS, together with Open Society Foundations, brought together 13 international media support organisations to carry out an International Mission to Mexico to analyse the challenges facing the media. The mission concluded that the mechanisms for protection and safety of journalists were fragile, and in some areas, non-existent.
Since the mission took place, IMS has worked together with international media support groups to try to bolster actions by local press freedom and freedom of expression actors to create a coordinated approach to the safety of journalists.