Mexico City, September 29, 2020 – Today, Mexico’s federal congress is considering a proposal to abolish 54 federal trust funds, including one used to finance programs that protect journalists via the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, according to news reports. Under the legislative proposal, which was brought by the entire ruling party of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the journalist protection programs would no longer be funded by the mechanism; instead, they would be funded by the interior secretariat, a move that could leave them vulnerable to political maneuvering.
“CPJ is distressed by the proposal to the federal congress under which protection of hundreds of threatened reporters and rights defenders would be subject to political whims and cow trading,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Mexico’s congress should not allow protection for journalists in one of the world’s deadliest countries for the press to become politicized.”
The Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists was established in 2012 to provide threatened reporters and rights defenders with protective measures, such as panic buttons, body guards, and access to safe houses, as CPJ has documented. The measures are provided by a private contractor which is paid by the federal trust fund.
As of September 28, 2020, the mechanism has provided protection to 1,304 individuals, including 418 journalists, according to a statement published on the institution’s website on that date. The financial committee of the Mexican congress’ Chamber of Deputies is set to vote on the proposal today, after which it will be sent to the full chamber; if it passes there, Mexico’s president may sign it into law.