Lawlessness behind murder of journalists

Exactly one week later, photojournalist Margarito Martinez, who like Arenas had applied for state protection, was fatally shot outside his home in the border city of Tijuana.
Lawlessness behind murder of journalists
For months, Roberto Toledo had been receiving death threats. As a result, he was placed in a federal program to protect journalists and human rights defenders, according to news portal Monitor Michoacan, for which Toledo reported on corruption. But on Monday this week, he was shot dead on his way to an interview. It wasn’t the first killing of a journalist in Mexico this year. On January 10, Jose Luis Gamboa Arenas, the founder of a regional news blog from Veracruz, was murdered.
Exactly one week later, photojournalist Margarito Martinez, who like Arenas had applied for state protection, was fatally shot outside his home in the border city of Tijuana. His colleague, Lourdes Maldonado dedicated an entire radio and television segment to him. Five days later, she too was found shot dead inside her car — despite being enrolled in a federal protection program.
Before February had even begun, Mexico’s toll of slain journalists in 2022 stood at four.
Two years ago, journalist Lourdes Maldonado is reported to have personally told Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that she feared for her life. For years, the press rights group, Reporters Without Borders, has called Mexico the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Mexico isn’t just failing to protect its journalists, but also in prosecuting the crimes. According to Mexico’s Interior Under-secretary, Alejandro Encinas, more than 90% of the murders of journalists and human rights activists remain unresolved. That has emboldened perpetrators.
It’s not a new situation. According to experts, widespread impunity has been a systemic problem in Mexico for many decades, affecting everyone. Mexico has a serious rule of law problem. It’s a fact that has been recorded year after year by the World Justice Project (WJP).
In 2021, Mexico ranked 113 out of 139 countries in the WJP’s Rule of Law Index; within Latin America, it currently polls 27 out of 32 nations. Only Honduras, Bolivia, authoritarian-ruled Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Haiti, which some consider a failed state, are worse off than Mexico in the region.
Many experts have conducted studies on Mexico’s pervasive problems with lawlessness and corruption. There have been repeated attempts to carry out reforms and overhaul the criminal justice system. In 2008, for example, lawmakers approved a reform for the introduction of oral trials. It was meant to shorten and make more transparent the purely written procedure that dates back to the Spanish colonial era.
The National Anti-Corruption System, passed in 2018 following pressure from civil society in Congress, was intended to bring greater transparency, accountability, and participation to the judiciary. Both reforms were delayed and watered down by excessive red tape and wrangling between the central government and the states about who would be responsible.
Mexico lacks the political will to reform the process, according to human rights expert Michael Chamberlin. “The prosecutor’s offices are infiltrated by criminal networks, as are many municipal and state governments,” he said, adding that it explains the lack of appetite to modernise.
Chamberlin also said the investigations into individual cases were often badly managed. Although individual perpetrators end up in prison — often after confessions forced by torture, as human rights organisations and the UN have denounced — the actual mafia structures behind them go unchallenged. Chamberlin said the current government had actually reversed some progress.

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