Risk Assessment

What freedoms and restrictions are there for journalists in Mexico?

Freedom of print journalism in Mexico has been widely criticized by many organizations over the years, and has been considered “not-free” by Freedom House.  A more detailed description of Freedom House’s assessment of Mexico’s freedom of press has been posted online with the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, which attributes Mexico’s ongoing drug war as one main reason the country’s freedom of the press rating has gone down.

In Mexico’s constitution, Article 7 states, “Freedom of writing and publishing writings on any subject is inviolable. No law or authority may establish censorship, require bonds from authors or printers, or restrict the freedom of printing, which shall be limited only by the respect due to private life, morals, and public peace. Under no circumstances may a
printing press be sequestrated as the instrument of the offense.”

So censoring information in the media goes against the country’s constitution, but there is also the threat of physical violence from drug cartels that has imposed an immense amount of self-censorship within the media in Mexico.

Felipe Calderon, the current President of Mexico, attempted to form a federal protection program for Mexican journalists, but has failed due to the program being deemed “ineffective” by those who are a part of it, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.  The program has eight current journalists enrolled, but the security details are uniformed police officers, who irregularly show up to “deter” would-be attackers around mid-day according to CPJ.

What kind of visa is recommended for foreign reporters?

Travelling from the United States into Mexico is relatively easy for short trips.  Just flash your passport at the border and you can zip on down, or show it at the airport for trips farther south.

If you want to stay in the country for more than 180 days however, “Upon arrival in Mexico, business travelers must complete and submit a form (Form FMM) authorizing the conduct of business, but not employment, for a 30-day period. Travelers entering Mexico for purposes other than tourism or business, or for stays of longer than 180 days, require a visa and must carry a valid U.S. passport. U.S. citizens planning to work or live in Mexico should apply for the appropriate Mexican visa at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC, or at the nearest Mexican consulate in the United States.” according to the U.S. Department of State.

What precautions do foreign reporters take, from health to protective gear?

Travelling to Mexico can be similar to travelling into a war zone in certain areas.  With recent bombings of newspapers and murders of journalists in the country, danger is ever-present.  Gunfire can be present wherever you are, and one must be prepared.  In a medical kit, bandages and antiseptic would be a high priority.  The CDC recommends staying up to date on your vaccinations, such as Rabies, Typhoid, and Hepatitis A&B.  Also, if you plan on visiting Southern Mexico, such as Chiapas, Oaxaca, and certain other states, make sure you carry anti-malaria pills because cases of malaria have been reported in those areas.

As for protective gear, there isn’t much you can bring that isn’t available in major cities in Mexico.  Bring sun protection, bug repellent, mosquito nets if you’re in a less urban area and other things you may feel are necessary.  If you do find you need something, there are Wal Marts everywhere.

How can you avoid putting sources in jeopardy?

The University of Texas-Austin uploaded a blog post regarding the first law in Mexico that protects journalist’s sources. “The law prohibits authorities from reviewing recordings, computers, or other tools journalists use,” according to the post.

The CPJ also advocates cyber-security training, in order to protect journalists and their sources from hackers or government agencies.  This type of training would educate journalists on basic cyber security, and instead of sending information via text message, the information could be passed along a line that is not as easy to hack into.

What help can you expect to receive from U.S. entities?

The U.S. Department of State also provides information regarding U.S. embassies in Mexico, as well as contact information for people in Washington D.C.

If there is an issue with a lost passport, or regarding personal safety, if you get arrested, if you are injured, or if you need an attorney, the embassies located throughout Mexico are the go-to for U.S. citizens in the country.



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