Jun 7, 2022 - World

Exclusive: Dems urge Biden to protect Mexican journalists amid killings

Protesters carrying signs and banners march for journalists' safety in Mexico City

Protesters in Mexico City demand justice for journalists' murders. Photo: Luis Barron / Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images.

A group of Democratic members of Congress wants the Biden administration to review a U.S.-funded program meant to protect Mexican journalists amid a wave of unpunished killings. The lawmakers say the U.S. needs to do more to promote journalists' safety.

Driving the news: The letter, led by U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), was signed by 11 other members of Congress and sent Monday evening to the State Department and USAID, Castro's spokesperson said.

  • It asks Secretary of State Antony Blinken and USAID administrator Samantha Power to provide a plan to work with the Mexican government on reducing the number of journalist who are killed and to take other actions.

The big picture: A record 11 journalists have been murdered in Mexico this year alone; 145 have been killed since 2000.

  • Journalists are often killed — with impunity — for their reporting on crime or corruption. Mexico is the most dangerous non-war zone country for journalists in the world.

Details: The Democratic lawmakers want the State Department to provide information on how it plans to promote the protection of journalists and human rights defenders.

  • They also want an analysis of U.S.-funded programs, including what's known as Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which provides body guards and other safety measures to journalists who face threats.
  • It's unclear how much funding the program currently receives, but documents show USAID allocated about $25 million to it and justice reform trainings between 2014 to 2018.
  • Over 1,400 people are currently under the protection of the mechanism.
  • The State Department and USAID didn't immediately issue comment.

Between the lines: Mexico’s Congress in 2020 eliminated independent funding for the protection mechanism in a move supported by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador under the guise of austerity.

  • Since then, it’s been consistently underfunded and mismanaged, according to several government and independent reports.

López Obrador is highly critical of the press and often attacks reporters during his morning briefings.

  • He criticized Blinken after he expressed concern over the killings of journalists in February, saying he was "misinformed."

What they’re saying: “The state of civil rights and security in Mexico have profound consequences for communities on both sides of the border,” Castro said in a statement.

  • “As the Summit of the Americas continues throughout the week, I urge the Biden administration to work with our Mexican partners to bring justice to the families of the disappeared and ensure that the Mexican press can operate freely and without fear.”

Subscribe to Axios Latino and get more news that matters about Latinos and Latin America, delivered right to your inbox on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Go deeper