MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s government National Human Rights Commission has taken the odd position that a protection mechanism for journalists should protect the head of the government’s own news agency.
The Interior Department, which oversees the publicly-funded protection program, turned down the commission’s request Wednesday, saying the government has plenty of other ways to protect its own officials.
The rights commission usually protects private individuals against abuses by public servants, not vice-versa. The protection program protects private and independent journalists against attacks, usually by gangs or corrupt local officials, and often assigns them bodyguards.
But this time the commission threw its weight behind Sanjuana Martínez, the head of the government-financed news agency Notimex.
Notimex has been shuttered by a strike since 2020, shortly after Sanjuana Martínez was appointed to run it. Martínez has proved controversial because she largely replaced the journalists who had previously been employed by Notimex, leading to the strike.
Some critics claim Martínez, appointed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has turned the agency into a mouthpiece for his administration's policies, and accuse her of using social media to slam private journalists who sometimes criticize López Obrador.
But Martínez claims she has been hounded by other journalists and a press freedom group, and prevented from doing her job by the strike.
The Interior Department had turned down Martínez's request for protection earlier this year, and the rights commission demanded it reconsider.
The protection mechanism was already strained and under-funded before the request in a country considered the most dangerous place for journalists outside a war zone. Press groups say nine journalists were killed in Mexico in 2020, the highest total of any country not at war, and another was killed last week in the northern border state of Sonora.
The Associated Press