State Committee of Protection to the journalism, the absent help
San Luis Potosí journalists are unaware of the work of the State Committee for the Protection of Journalists
By Fernanda Padilla
How is it born?
The State Congress promoted the Law on Protection of Journalism in the State of San Luis Potosí, which was published on May 25th, 2013, in the Official State Journal, consequently in the promulgation of articles 6 and 7 of the Political Constitution of the Estados Unidos Mexicanos that recognize as fundamental freedoms of citizens the right to information, as well as free expression of ideas and recognition of these rights to information professionals. Article 13 is also included, which talks about the right to freedom of thought and expression of the American Convention on Human Rights, which indicates that everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression. This right includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in printed or artistic form, or by any other procedure of their choice.
In February 2014, the State Committee for the Protection of Journalism was integrated, with Cándido Ochoa Rojas as president and Elías Navarro Páramo as secretary; Miguel Ángel García Covarrubias, then Attorney General of Justice; Joel Melgar Arredondo, Secretary of Public Security; Jorge Vega Arroyo, president of the State Human Rights Commission; Jaime Hernández López, journalist of Editora Mival; Roberto Gutiérrez Turrubiartes, journalist of the Editorial Organization Mexicana, and Fernando Sánchez Lárraga, director of the law faculty of the UASLP.
México, one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism
The Law on the Protection of Journalists from the State of San Luis Potosí recognizes that México has faced great challenges that involve the lives of hundreds of people who, with the commitment to inform, have to negotiate between their integrity or information; between his family and his professional ethics; and on many other occasions, between the news and their life.
According to data from the United Nations, our country is the most dangerous in América to practice journalism, with at least 66 journalists killed in the last 10 years; a figure to which we must add professionals threatened, attacked, injured or exiled.
The document points out that journalistic work, threatened by the circumstances in our country, not only affects those who are dedicated to inform and seek the news, but also harms their families who may feel insecure, attacked and, above all, without economic support, in a case that may seem cruel and cold, but which is one of our realities to which we can not close our eyes.
It also assures that the authorities must ensure the integrity of journalists, “it is compulsory work that as representatives and managers of the law corresponds to us. Nor are omissions, nor silence, when information by law is a right for citizens; however, those who are the link between information and society are at a time of insecurity, uncertainty and threat”.
“The exercise of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and free access to public information cannot be guaranteed while under threat. And it is the journalist and the media who fulfill the social tasks of information, analysis of situations, citizen denunciation, evidence, projection and reflection to the main social problems. In all three cases, these are general prerogatives, that is, they belong to the whole of the citizenry, and are closely linked with the exercise of journalism. The media and journalists have to be indispensable channels of collective cohesion, which fulfill social priority functions: inform, communicate, analyze, denounce, highlight, project, and reflect social problems”.
In 2017, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) reported in its document condemning the killing of journalists in Mexico of eleven cases of murdered journalists, including photojournalist Edgar Daniel Esqueda Castro, whose body was found on October 6th in the vicinity of the airport of the city of San Luis Potosi.
Unesco’s director-general, Irina Bokova, condemned and demanded that the homicide in San Luis Potosí be investigated, which undermines the rights to free expression and free information.
Esqueda Castro was last seen alive on October 5th, when presumed ministers deprived him of his freedom and was found dead and with traces of torture the next day.
The case of Daniel Esqueda Castro is the first recorded in San Luis Potosí.
The essence of this committee is to ensure the exercise of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, free access to public information and the integrity of journalists, based on prevention, implementation of protocols of attention to journalists, as well as better and more effective training of the officials involved, both in the administration of justice and public security.
According to the Law on Protection of Journalism in the State of San Luis Potosí, the Committee will be honorary and will meet at least once a month.
Article 18 of this Law states that its functions are to analyze and diagnose the risk situations of journalists; collect data and compile statistics that imply violations of freedom of expression. Document the cases of attacks on journalists and other related activities that are of interest to this Law. To train agents of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, police officers of the various corporations and other officials involved in the procurement of justice and public security, on investigative protocols and attention to journalists who are victims of aggression or violations of freedom of expression; as well as to propose to the Executive of the state the legal adjustments tending to the protection of the exercise of journalism.
Currently, the State Committee for the Protection of Journalists is composed of Alejandro Leal Tovías, Secretary General of the State Government; Zenón Campos Bocanegra, president of the Association of Journalists of Matehuala; Luis Fernando Fernández, editor of Mival; César Romero Salazar, as deputy secretary of Public Security (Arturo Gutiérrez García); José Francisco Guerrero, in the name of the Attorney General (Federico Garza Herrera) and the president of the Human Rights Commission, Andrés López Espinoza.
In May 2016, Deputy Héctor Mendizábal Pérez presented an initiative to reform the Law of Protection to the Exercise of Journalism; and Organic Law of the Legislative Power of the State of San Luis Potosí, with the aim of including a representative of the State Congress as a member of the State Committee for the Protection of Journalism, so that the President of the Human Rights Commission of the State Congress, Dulcelina Sánchez de Lira was integrated in November of that year.
Does the Comittee Meets the requirements?
The representative of the Committee by Legislative Branch, Dulcelina Sánchez de Lira, reported that they have registered a large number of complaints, which are analyzed by the members of the same. He also indicated that no special procedure is required to access the mechanisms it grants, “simply by filing a complaint”.
The PRD deputy acknowledged that since the current Committee was formed (November 2016) they have been sitting three times despite the fact that the Law on Protection of the Exercise of State Journalism indicates that it must be at least once a month.
When asked if the case of the photojournalist Daniel Esqueda Castro was on the table of this committee, the congresswoman said it was not. “There are cases in which people report that their freedom of expression has been truncated, but a case like Daniel’s, I think it had not appeared”, said the deputy.
Sánchez de Lira emphasized that they will put great emphasis on the matter, “and the issue of the murdered journalist should be addressed immediately. That still implies a great work and sum of will of many institutions, also to review in the legal framework that would lack to implement to generate a real protection”.
Journalists and the Committee
The team of LaOrquesta.MX carried out a survey among some of the journalists who work in field, to know their position in front of the work that this committee plays, most of them said not to be clear the function that this organ performs. Here are some of the answers:
“I am not clear what their role is, however, I imagine that it is the channeling and protective instance in the face of a difficult situation related to journalistic work”.
“I have no clear knowledge about this committee”.
“I do not know any members and I only heard from the Committee, but for a moment I thought it was the same as the Commission of Attention to Journalists in the State Congress. I do not know their functions or how to turn to them. I think that for a short time and that San Luis Potosí had not presented a case like recently with a photojournalist, little had been made known to this Committee or the interest of the guild for its existence”.
“I do not know the committee or who integrates it… I do not know what it’s for”.
“I do know Alejandro Leal Tovías. I know it exists since 2014”.
“I did not know it existed“.
“It is supposed to guarantee our journalistic work and is headed by the secretary general of government as representative of the Executive, the others do not know them”.
“Yes, I knew it existed and I do know some of its members, not at all.“
“I only know that Alejandro Leal Tovías presides over him and from there on out I do not know if anyone is even from our guild, I really do not know”.
“I knew that in the Legislative there was a special commission where the deputies listened to the journalists victims of some situation and analyzed the attention received in the corresponding instances”.
When questioning them about their usefulness, as well as the dissemination of protection mechanisms, some responded that:
“I think it’s a mockery to say that there is a Committee”.
“It is a committee of adornment, without moral quality; they do not understand why they are there”.
“I think it does not work, they installed it as a mere procedure and to say that they complied”.
“It’s a fallacy, for example, the two people I know make up the committee, one of them is a state official and the other is a journalist but also a bureaucrat, it’s impossible to trust a profile with these characteristics. Protection of journalists is necessary but the current one is not useful”.
“I really think that the dissemination of this committee is almost null, so I consider that journalism is not a safe profession or well paid”.
“There is no diffusion of this mechanism of attention. The media companies have stayed out of it and little or no has been the advice or recommendations that make you to perform in the work.
“There is no such mechanism, the truth is that the complaints of journalists never took them into account”.
“It does not serve, they do not even meet, I think they have an obligation to meet certain times and not even comply it”.
“I think they did this to cover them up and to say that they were working on something to protect us, we really got to know about this type of work until something as regrettable as Daniel’s happens or when they want to raise a mate or threaten someone, it’s the only way we find out that it exists, from the outside, I think nobody would know that there is a mechanism or group”.
“The truth is that here in San Luis is not being applied as it should, here it is only a protocol, we have not seen a document as such, we have never been informed, not even our own companies tell us that it exists.”
When asked if they felt confident in exercising their profession in the state, they pointed out that:
“No, I do not feel secure in practicing journalism“.
“Today more than ever I feel insecure and vulnerable.”
“No, obviously not, but maybe, contrary to what could happen with the police source, who fears organized crime, I think that for those of the local source are the governments of whom one can feel threatened, or of the authorities”.
“To be honest I thought it a little safe, but because of the facts that are being raised, insecurity, and now that you think things through and believe that if there is that need to know what kind of protection you can access in given in case you are presented with a situation”.
“I feel safe”.
“In a way I feel safe, but if we had a danger of threats there would be no one who could guarantee us security“.
“Yes, we must go and report in spite of the fear we are taught.”
“Yes I feel safe, but as long as we do not go astray, as long as we continue in the square in which we must be if we do not leave the limits. That’s where the problems would start. I would feel insecure and start to investigate beyond what is allowed me”.
“At the moment I do not feel safe exercising my profession, but somehow you have to work and find the way to do your work with all precautions and with responsibility on what to report”.