Year after year, Mexico remains one of the world’s most dangerous and deadly countries for journalists. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in power since 2018, has not yet carried out the reforms and measures needed to stop the spiral of violence against the press.
Mexico is one of the countries with the highest media concentrations in the world, and it is difficult for small, independent entities to carve out a place for themselves. The telecom sector is dominated by Telmex, while broadcasting is controlled by Televisa. And the newspaper sector is essentially led by Organización Editorial Mexicana, which owns 70 Mexican daily newspapers, 24 radio stations and 44 websites. This is why more and more independent journalists post their work on social media.
President López Obrador and other government officials have adopted a combative and stigmatising rhetoric towards the press, frequently accusing journalists of supporting the opposition. Every Wednesday, the government runs a session called, "Who's Who in this Week’s Fake News,” in yet another attempt to discredit journalists. During his four years in office, López Obrador has criticised journalists for their lack of professionalism, and has described the Mexican press as “biased”, “unfair” and "the scum of journalism".
Press freedom is guaranteed in the Mexican Constitution and further upheld in the Law Regarding Freedom of the Press of 1917. In practice, there are no overtly restrictive laws that curtail or censor press freedom, with censorship imposed with threats or direct attacks against the journalists rather than lawsuits, imprisonment, or rulings of suspension of activities.
Mexico's economy is diversified and relies on a variety of sectors, including the hi-tech industry, oil production, mineral exploitation and manufacturing. Although it is the second largest economy in Latin America after Brazil, Mexico was hard-hit by the pandemic, with the loss of more than 2 million jobs. For the most part, the media have also been badly hit and journalists have had to seek alternative sources of income while attempting to continue their freelance work.
Mexico is a huge country that is structured around major population centres including Mexico City and at least seven other cities with more than a million inhabitants. The popularity of telenovelas has traditionally been the link between mass media and the sources of news and information for the general population. TV Azteca and Televisa, TV stations owned by families close to the government, are by far the biggest suppliers of both.
Collusion between officials and organized crime poses a grave threat to journalists’ safety and cripples the judicial system at all levels. Journalists who cover sensitive political stories or crime, especially at the local level, are warned, threatened and then often gunned down in cold blood. Others are abducted and never seen again, or they flee to other parts of the country or abroad as the only way to ensure their survival. President López Obrador has not carried out the reforms needed to rein in this violence and impunity. Nearly 150 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000 and 28 have gone missing.