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Mexico's President Calls for More Protection of Journalists

  • Associated Press

Evidence identifiers are placed next to the body of journalist Javier Valdez at a crime scene in Culiacan, Mexico, May 15, 2017.

Shouts of “justice” echoed from the press corps Wednesday moments after Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto called for a moment of silence for journalists who have been murdered at a frightening pace.

The president's hastily called meeting with his security cabinet and the country's governors was meant to show a united response to the slaying of reporters from one corner of Mexico to the other so far this year. On Monday, Javier Valdez in Culiacan, Sinaloa, became the sixth journalist slain in less than three months in six different states.

“Violence can't be part of daily life,” Pena Nieto said. “Each crime against a journalist is a strike against freedom of expression and the press and the citizenry.”

The gathering was titled “actions for freedom of expression and protection of journalists and defenders,” but as is customary, Pena Nieto did not take questions.

The president sketched out three measures, but without details.

He promised more resources to help journalists under threat and for the special prosecutor's office tasked with investigating crimes against journalists.

Both measures have so far proven ineffective in stopping the bloodshed among the country's media workers. Mexico ranks behind only Syria and Afghanistan for such murders.

Pena Nieto also called for better coordination between federal and state authorities and the development of protocols for handling such investigations.

While slayings of journalists draw attention, they are not an aberration in a country with steadily deteriorating security. Homicides in general were up 29 percent in the first quarter of 2017.

Pena Nieto seemed to allude to that fact, saying: “The murder of journalists and human rights defenders often is a symptom of greater phenomenon of impunity.”

Also Wednesday, Sinaloa state Attorney General Juan Jose Rios said the circumstances of Valdez's killing point to him having been targeted because of his journalistic work.

Rios added that measures were being taken to protect Valdez's family as well as Riodoce, the publication Valdez helped found.

The previous evening, several hundred journalists gathered in front of Mexico's Interior Department to protest the killings.

One of them, Alejandro Paez Varela, content director for the online outlet SinEmbargo.mx, said Valdez's murder - in broad daylight and just a block from Riodoce's office - was a demonstration of impunity.

“They kill because they can kill. And they kill because they never go after them,” said Paez Varela. “That is the federal government's fault.”

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