REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Attacking or intimidating journalists in Mexico would become a federal crime under a constitutional reform approved Tuesday by Mexican lawmakers.
The measure, approved unanimously by the Senate, is seen as a way to bolster protection for journalists, who have been targeted frequently as drug violence across the country has soared during the last 5 1/2 years.
More than 40 journalists have disappeared or been killed since 2006, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, a global watchdog group. In many volatile areas, journalists avoid covering crime news or omit facts that might anger drug lords.
Press advocates complain that crimes against journalists are too often ignored by police at the state and municipal level, where authorities are often incompetent or on the payroll of crime groups. Under current law, Mexico has a federal prosecutor assigned to investigate crimes against journalists, but his authority is limited to cases in which some other federal law was broken.
The broadly worded reform would allow federal prosecutors to investigate any offense deemed an attack on free expression.
The measure, which had previously cleared the lower House of Deputies, must be approved by a majority of Mexico’s 32 state legislatures before it becomes a constitutional amendment. But approval at the state level is expected to come quickly given the measure’s support across party lines.
-- Ken Ellingwood