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Press freedom is an essential element in any democracy. It provides a vehicle through which citizens can become informed about the critical issues of the day and share their opinions. But as the war on drugs escalates in Mexico, the free press finds itself threatened.
Since the beginning of his administration, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has made the battle against organized crime a priority. Mexico's drug cartels have used violence not only against each other but also against the government and journalists as a weapon of intimidation.
According to the Federation of Mexican Journalists Associations 27 journalists have been killed and 5 are missing since December 2006, with almost every case still unsolved. Five of the deaths have occurred this year.
Media workers are constantly threatened by corrupt government officials and drug traffickers. In 2006, Bradley Will, an American journalist working in the southern state of Oaxaca was shot dead while covering a demonstration. Although Mexican authorities have made an arrest in the case, the conduct of the investigation has proved controversial.
In 2007 Armando Rodriguez, a veteran police beat reporter was shot dead as he prepared to take his oldest daughter to school. Rodriguez had been threatened repeatedly and had covered an apparent narco-assassination the week before he was murdered. And this June, a gunman for one of the drug cartels who was convicted for the homicide of reporter Eliseo Barron said his motive was to terrorize the press.
The Mexican government is aware of the gravity of the situation regarding the safety of members of the press and has already taken measures to protect the press. In 2006, a special prosecutor's office for crimes against journalists was created. The following year, Mexico expanded freedom of speech by passing a bill that eliminated criminal penalties at the federal level for defamation. And last April, the Mexican Congress made crimes against journalists a federal offense.
The United States Government expresses its concern about the dangers to press freedom in Mexico, and stresses the importance it attaches to the Mexican government's efforts to ensure a safe, free environment for journalists. The United States also reaffirms its commitment to stand beside Mexico in the fight against organized crime. As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, the U.S. “will stand with those courageous men and women who face persecution for exercising and defending the right of media freedom.”