March 25, 2019 / 11:09 PM / a year ago

Mexico vows to better protect threatened reporters as murder tally rises

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A Mexican official said on Monday that the government would strengthen measures to protect journalists, the day after a sports reporter became the latest in a long list of media workers to be murdered.

FILE PHOTO: Men carry the casket of late Mexican journalist Santiago Barroso, who was shot multiple times by unknown assailants, as they arrive for a funeral mass at a church in San Luis Rio Colorado, in Sonora state, Mexico March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Cristian Torres

Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for reporters, with at least 124 media workers killed since 2000, according to rights group Article 19.

Six journalists have been killed since December, when President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office, said Alejandro Encinas, the deputy interior minister for human rights.

Of those six, just one was part of the government programme, called the Mechanism of Protection for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. Formed in 2012, the programme gives resources such as panic buttons, surveillance systems and body guards to journalists who face threats connected to their work.

Encinas said 790 people are under the programme’s watch, including 292 journalists and 498 human rights activists.

Human rights organizations have criticized the programme for not doing more to put an end to attacks and punish the people responsible for them. Journalist deaths rose each year between 2013 and 2017, including people within the programme.

Nine media workers were killed in 2018, according to Article 19.

“The mechanism has fundamentally reactive measures, they don’t address prevention,” Encinas said at Lopez Obrador’s daily news conference. “We are going to fully assume our responsibility.”

Encinas said the government would seek more funding to account for a growing number of applicants, without specifying the amount. He said the people responsible for the killings may include government officials.

“This goes from people connected to criminal groups, to even authorities from various parts of government,” Encinas said of the suspects.

On Monday, the Sinaloa state prosecutor’s office said it opened a homicide investigation into the killing of Ivan Camacho, who covered sports for local Altavoz radio. The 36-year-old was found dead Sunday night on a highway in the state, which has seen extensive violence from warring drug cartels.

Lopez Obrador, a leftist who has vowed to wipe out corruption, said the issue would require “permanent follow-up.” He also took aim at reporting that he has described as conservative, unfair and out-of-touch.

“There is a ‘fifi’ press,” Lopez Obrador said, using the term he coined to describe the coverage. “They’re our adversaries.”

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon, Noe Torres and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Leslie Adler

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