May 27, 2013 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Journalist who fled abroad describes protective mechanism’s flaws

Reporters Without Borders is today releasing a video interview in which Verónica Basurto Gamero, a young independent journalist who used to be based in Mexico City, explains why she had to flee abroad at the start of March. She also criticizes the new Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which failed to protect her from dangers arising from her journalistic work. Set up in October 2012 and overseen by the interior ministry, the Federal Mechanism is currently supposed to be protecting 48 people, including 13 journalists. Basurto spent eight months working with French journalist Laurence Cuvillier of the TV news channel France 24 shedding light on serious irregularities in the investigations ordered by senior Mexican officials into certain abductions, including the abduction of French citizen Florence Cassez. They had begun to reveal how certain suspects and witnesses had been tortured and subjected to other forms of pressure. Basurto was repeatedly threatened and followed during the first two months of this year and quickly realized that the “protection” she was receiving under the Federal Mechanism was providing her with no real guarantees. Basurto told Reporters Without Borders: “I abandoned my investigative work. I will never go back to investigative reporting because of the lack of protection by the Mexican state, which should guarantee my family’s safety and my freedom of expression. Unfortunately, many journalists live with fear as they work.” After initial assistance from the Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH), Basurto received help from the main international NGOs that defend freedom of information – Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House and the Committee to Protect Journalists – and is now living in Spain. Basurto’s criticism of the Federal Mechanism – that the protection is derisory, that the authorities take too long to respond and that it is held back by cumbersome administrative procedures – is shared by many other Mexican journalists who are in growing danger. They include Jorge Carrasco of the weekly Proceso, who was threatened after investigating fellow Proceso reporter Regina Martínez’s murder in the east-coast state of Veracruz and who has had to seek temporary refuge in Europe. They also include the freelance journalist and author Anabel Hernández, who was harassed and threatened for reporting alleged links between certain organized crime groups and Genaro García Luna, the former head of the now disbanded public security ministry. In March, Reporters Without Borders and other NGOs managed to persuade the Mexico City authorities to provide Hernández with a permanent bodyguard for another three months but this protection could unfortunately end in June. “As well as providing details about her case, the Basurto interview also serves as an appeal for the reinforcement of the mechanisms for protecting journalists in danger,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Improved protection entails proper investigation into the origin of the threats or attacks against those who are being protected or need to be protected. Combating impunity is an essential in order to provide effective protection.” A total of 86 journalists have been killed in the past decade, and 17 others have disappeared. Outside picture : Cuartoscuro