On August 23, Nevith Condes Jaramillo became the tenth journalist murdered in Mexico so far in 2019. Nevith was the director of a small local news site in the town of Tejupilco, a 3-hour drive from the capital and one of the areas where organized crime and violence have been unleashed in recent years.
As a journalist, Nevith gave voice to the people of his town. He talked about the authorities’ empty promises and the lack of public services. His stories triggered tensions with the local government, but his people loved him.
Another Mexican journalist was killed. Nevith Condes Jaramillo was found dead with stab wounds in Tejupilco, not far from Mexico City. At least 10 reporters were killed in Mexico this year. Impunity continues fueling this slaughter. Unbelievable. Very sad! https://t.co/DZxQ3JgmcM pic.twitter.com/zj6TEHWHme
— Rosental (@Rosental) August 25, 2019
In 2017, Nevith received a threat from alleged members of an organized crime group after covering the visit of Secretary of State for Health, Gabriel Jaime O’Shea Cuevas, and then the local deputy Anthony Dominguez Vargas, who later became the town’s municipal president.
“I don’t want to do anything to you, I like your work, but don’t mess with us,” the threat said. “Listen to the deputy, and don’t write anything anymore. You’re getting into trouble for talking about the deputy.”
Later, in June 2019, Nevith published a video containing interviews with residents and the principal of a primary school who complained about the lack of support and the suspension of the school’s construction. A subject who identified himself as part of an organized crime group demanded Nevith take down the video, call municipal president Anthony, and ask for his forgiveness.
Two months later, Nevith was stabbed to death in front of his house.
Violence Against Press in Mexico
Since 2000, 131 journalists have been killed in Mexico, and even though the numbers are outrageous, they do not reflect the terror the press faces in the country. The climate of fear is excessive, and the number of voices and stories that have been silenced constitute losses that are impossible to calculate.
The last few years have taken away the words of hundreds of journalists who have been assaulted over and over again. The media stopped telling what is going on or had to become anonymous.
This violence does not cease; instead, it intensified. ARTICLE 19, an organization dedicated to defending freedom of expression in the country, documented 249 aggressions against journalists in the first half of 2019, of which state agents committed 42 percent and more than 99 percent remained unpunished.
Mexico is now the world’s most dangerous country without war to practice journalism, despite having institutions that, in theory, promote and guarantee freedom of expression and information.
Mexico’s Protection Mechanism
Believe it or not, Mexico has “fully complied” with the recommendations entrusted to it by the international human rights system. The country created a Protection Mechanism for Journalists and Human Rights Defenders in 2012 to prevent aggression against the press. It also established a Special Prosecutor’s Office to investigate and prosecute crimes against freedom of expression. However, the lack of rule of law and will on the part of the authorities – to whom silence is profitable – has allowed violence against the press to become systematic and widespread throughout the country.
The Mexican state has failed to protect, sanction, and guarantee. Authorities at all three levels and branches of government, including the autonomous agencies, have opted to restrict rights and justify their lack of response. Despite that the Protection Mechanism in practice has demonstrated greater investment in training for its implementation, considerable weaknesses remain in the determination of risk analyses and the implementation of federal security measures at the local level for journalists.
The lack of effective coordination of the Mechanism with local authorities but, even more so, with those who sit on the governing board is a general failure in implementation, as there will be no protection if impunity is not tackled.
With more impunity, there will be more journalists in need of protection, but fewer instruments to protect them. Since 2013, there is a 25 percent average annual increase in journalists and defenders seeking protection. However, according to the U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner in Mexico, the lack of a preventive approach is the main reason why in 2017 only ten cases of journalists seeking protection were closed while 2018 saw none.
The U.N. continued by saying that “without a preventive approach combined with an action aimed at nullifying the causes of the risk, the need for individual protection will not be diminished and, finally, the Mechanism will become inefficient and unsustainable.” The report predicted that by 2024, 12 years after the program’s launch, approximately 3,400 people will need protection.
In addition, the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression has failed to open investigations into attacks against journalists through its official participation in the Governance Board of the Protection Mechanism. The Special Prosecutor’s lack of proactivity translates into a useless practice to help reduce impunity and, therefore, prevent further aggressions against journalists.
What would have happened if the Special Prosecutor had investigated and punished those who threatened Nevith? Could his death have been prevented?
In Mexico, the fear of violence has attracted silence. In recent years, this silence has spread throughout the country, but some courageous journalists still resist and continue to tell the stories about the disappearances in their thousands, the femicides that to this day are denied, the repression, the corruption, the hatred, and the discrimination.
Without journalist shining lights on these issues, there won’t be any transformation. Nevith showed the need for journalism that can create alternative narratives to those that the state and organized crime want to impose to maintain the levels of corruption and impunity in Mexico.
It is too late for Nevith, but Mexico needs to protect its journalists if it wants to defend its freedom.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.