Two measures approved in Mexico City to protect journalists

New York, April 28, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the approval of two measures by the Mexico City Legislative Assembly—one decriminalizing defamation, libel and slander, and the other enabling journalists to withhold the identity of confidential sources.

“We’re gratified that the Mexico City assembly has adopted these measures, which represent important milestones in the advancement of free expression,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.

The Mexico City assembly unanimously adopted the “Law of Civil Responsibility for the Defense of Honor, Private Life, and Self Image” early this morning, said Perla Gómez, a lawyer for the free-expression organization Libertad de Información-México. The measure, introduced by Deputy Carlos Reyes Gámiz, effectively eliminates “honor crimes” such as slander and libel from Mexico City’s penal code and directs such complaints to civil court.

National legislation to decriminalize defamation stalled in the Senate Thursday night as the chamber’s session came to an end. The national bill, which had passed the lower chamber of Congress, will not be considered again until the Senate reconvenes in September. “We urge the Senate to move promptly on this legislation,” Cooper said.

The national bill is symbolically important, but the large majority of defamation cases are handled at the state or district level. The Mexico City law will take precedence in cases involving journalists working in the capital, Gómez said. Her group estimates that 80 percent of Mexican journalists work in the capital.

The Mexico City assembly unanimously adopted the “Law for the Professional Secrecy of Journalists” on Thursday night, Gómez told CPJ. The measure, also introduced by Reyes, allows journalists to withhold identifying information about confidential sources from law enforcement, judicial, and government authorities.

Both chambers of Congress have approved national legislation offering similar protection on confidential sources. That bill awaits the signature of President Vicente Fox, who is said to favor the measure. (See CPJ’s April 18, 2006 alert:)