New York, April 6, 2009--The Mexican Congress must move expeditiously to approve a constitutional reform granting federal authorities jurisdiction over crimes against free expression, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, approved a measure last week imposing penalties for crimes against "journalistic activity," an encouraging but still preliminary step, CPJ said.
"The wave of unprecedented violence in
Federal authorities would be given broad authority to investigate and prosecute crimes against free expression under an amendment to Article 73 of the Mexican Constitution, a proposal that was approved by the Constitutional Committee of the Chamber of Deputies on March 18. The amendment is now being considered by the chamber's Justice Committee, according to congressional sources. A vote before the full chamber is expected in the next two weeks, with Senate action to follow, these officials told CPJ.
The Chamber of Deputies voted 263-0 last Thursday to add to the federal penal code penalties for crimes against "journalistic activity." The measure imposes penalties of up to five years in prison for anyone who "impedes, interferes, limits or attacks against journalistic activity." Sentences are doubled if the assailant is a public official. The punishment would be applied independent of existing penalties. The measure is now before the Senate.
Journalistic activity is defined as "the exercise of seeking, collecting, photographing, investigating, synthesizing, drafting, editing, printing, exposing, publishing or disseminating information, news, ideas, opinions or knowledge to the general public by means of any media outlet, as well as the distribution of these ideas." The legislation states that "this activity can be undertaken regularly or sporadically, be paid or not without there being a need for a labor relationship with a media outlet."
"We commend the Chamber of Deputies for taking a step forward in the fight to end impunity in crimes against free expression," Lauría said. "However, the enactment of new penalties will not have the profound effect that is needed without the adoption of constitutional reform."
Congress adjourns at the end of April and, with mid-term elections scheduled for July, the best opportunity to adopt the legislation is in the next four weeks, Lauría said.
According to CPJ's annual survey
Attacks on the Press,
CPJ research has found that
local and state authorities in