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Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. Most newspapers, television, and radio stations had private ownership. The government had minimal presence in the ownership of news media but remained the main source of advertising revenue, which at times influenced coverage. Media monopolies, especially in small markets, could constrain freedom of expression.

Violence and Harassment: Journalists were subject to physical attacks, harassment, and intimidation (especially by state agents and transnational criminal organizations) due to their reporting. This created a chilling effect that limited media’s ability to investigate and report, since many of the reporters who were killed covered crime, corruption, and local politics. During the year more journalists were killed because of their reporting than in any previous year. The OHCHR recorded 15 killings of reporters, and Reporters Without Borders identified evidence that the killing of at least 11 reporters was directly tied to their work.

Perpetrators of violence against journalists acted with impunity, which fueled further attacks. According to Article 19, a press freedom NGO, the impunity rate for crimes against journalists was 99.7 percent. The 276 attacks against journalists in the first six months of the year represented a 23 percent increase from the same period in 2016. Since its creation in 2010, the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Journalists (FEADLE), a unit of the Attorney General’s Office, won only two convictions in more than 800 cases it pursued. During the year there was only one conviction for the murder of a journalist at the local level. In February a court in Oaxaca convicted and sentenced a former police officer to 30 years’ imprisonment for the 2016 murder of journalist Marcos Hernandez Bautista. The OHCHR office in Mexico publicly condemned the failure to prosecute crimes against journalists.

Government officials believed organized crime to be behind most of these attacks, but NGOs asserted there were instances when local government authorities participated in or condoned the acts. An April report by Article 19 noted 53 percent of cases of aggression against journalists in 2016 originated with public officials. Although 75 percent of those came from state or local officials, federal officials and members of the armed forces were also suspected of being behind attacks.

In April the government of Quintana Roo offered a public apology to journalist Pedro Canche, who was falsely accused by state authorities of sabotage and detained for nine months in prison.

According to Article 19, 11 journalists were killed between January 1 and October 15. For example, on March 23, Miroslava Breach, correspondent for the daily newspapers La Jornada and El Norte de Chihuahua, was shot eight times and killed as she was preparing to take her son to school in Chihuahua City. Many of her publications focused on political corruption, human rights abuses, attacks against indigenous communities, and organized crime. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), she was the only national correspondent to cover the troubled Sierra Tarahumara indigenous region. On December 25, federal police made an arrest in the case of an individual linked to a branch of the Sinaloa cartel who they stated was the mastermind of the crime. Breach’s family told La Jornada newspaper they did not believe the suspect in custody was behind the killing, which they attributed to local politicians who had previously threatened the reporter.

On May 15, Javier Valdez, founder of Riodoce newspaper in Sinaloa, winner of a 2011 CPJ prize for heroic journalism and outspoken defender of press freedom, was shot and killed near his office in Culiacan, Sinaloa.

During the first six months of the year, the National Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists received 214 requests for protection, an increase of 143 percent from 2016. Since its creation in 2012 through July, the mechanism accepted 589 requests for protection. On August 22, a journalist under the protection of the mechanism, Candido Rios, was shot and killed in the state of Veracruz. Following the wave of killings in early May, the president replaced the special prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression at the Attorney General’s Office and held a televised meeting with state governors and attorneys general to call for action in cases of violence against journalists. NGOs welcomed the move but expressed concern regarding shortcomings, including the lack of an official protocol to handle journalist killings despite the appointment of the special prosecutor. NGOs maintained that the special prosecutor had not used his office’s authorities to take charge of cases in which state prosecutors had not produced results.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Human rights groups reported state and local governments in some parts of the country worked to censor the media and threaten journalists. In June the New York Times newspaper reported 10 Mexican journalists and human rights defenders were targets of an attempt to infiltrate their smartphones through an Israeli spyware program called Pegasus that was sold only to governments, citing a forensic investigation by Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. Officials at the Attorney General’s Office acknowledged purchasing Pegasus but claimed to have used it only to monitor criminals.

Journalists reported altering their coverage in response to a lack of protection from the government, attacks against members of the media and newsrooms, false charges of “publishing undesirable news,” and threats or retributions against their families, among other reasons. There were reports of journalists practicing self-censorship because of threats from criminal groups and of government officials seeking to influence or pressure the press, especially in the states of Tamaulipas and Sinaloa.

Libel/Slander Laws: There are no federal laws against defamation, libel, or slander, but local laws remain in eight states. Five states have laws that restrict the use of political caricatures or “memes.” These laws were seldom applied.

Nongovernmental Impact: Organized criminal groups exercised a grave and increasing influence over media outlets and reporters, threatening individuals who published critical views of crime groups. Concerns persisted regarding the use of physical violence by organized criminal groups in retaliation for information posted online, which exposed journalists, bloggers, and social media users to the same level of violence faced by traditional journalists.


The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or block or filter online content. Freedom House’s 2016 Freedom on the Net report categorized the country’s internet as partly free, noting an increase in government requests to social media companies to remove content.

Some civil society organizations alleged that various state and federal agencies sought to monitor private online communications. NGOs alleged that provisions in secondary laws threatened the privacy of internet users by forcing telecommunication companies to retain data for two years, providing real-time geolocation data to police, and allowing authorities to obtain metadata from private communications companies without a court order. Furthermore, the law does not fully define the “appropriate authority” to carry out such actions. Despite civil society pressure to nullify the government’s data retention requirements and real-time geolocation provisions passed in 2014, the Supreme Court upheld those mechanisms. The court, however, noted the need for authorities to obtain a judicial warrant to access users’ metadata.

In June the government stated it was opening a criminal investigation to determine whether prominent journalists, human rights defenders, and anticorruption activists were subjected to illegal surveillance via sophisticated surveillance malware.

INEGI estimated 59 percent of citizens over age five had access to the internet.


There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. There were some reports of security forces using excessive force against demonstrators. Twelve states have laws that restrict public demonstrations.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

The government and press reports noted a marked increase in refugee and asylum applications during the previous year. UNHCR projected the National Refugee Commission (COMAR) would receive 20,000 asylum claims by the end of the year, compared with 8,788 in 2016. COMAR projected lower numbers, noting that as of June 30, it had received 6,816 petitions.

At the Iztapalapa detention center near Mexico City, the Twenty-First Century detention center in Chiapas, and other detention facilities, men were kept separate from women and children, and there were special living quarters for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. Migrants had access to medical, psychological, and dental services, and the Iztapalapa center had agreements with local hospitals to care for any urgent cases free of charge. Individuals from countries with consular representation also had access to consular services. COMAR and CNDH representatives visited daily, and other established civil society groups were able to visit the detention facilities on specific days and hours. Victims of trafficking and other crimes were housed in specially designated shelters. Human rights pamphlets were available in many different languages. In addition approximately 35 centers cooperated with UNHCR and allowed it to put up posters and provide other information on how to access asylum for those in need of international protection.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The press and NGOs reported victimization of migrants by criminal groups and in some cases by police and immigration officers and customs officials. Government and civil society sources reported Central American gang presence spread farther into the country and threatened migrants who had fled the same gangs in their home countries. An August report by the independent INM Citizens’ Council found incidents in which immigration agents had been known to threaten and abuse migrants to force them to accept voluntary deportation and discourage them from seeking asylum. The council team visited 17 detention centers across the country and reported threats, violence, and excessive force against undocumented migrants. The INM responded to these allegations by asserting it treated all migrants with “absolute respect.”

There were media reports that criminal groups kidnapped undocumented migrants to extort money from migrants’ relatives or force them into committing criminal acts on their behalf.

In March the federal government began operating the Crimes Investigation Unit for Migrants and the Foreign Support Mechanism of Search and Investigation. The International Organization for Migration collaborated with municipal governments to establish offices along the border with Guatemala to track and assist migrants.

In-country Movement: There were numerous instances of armed groups limiting the movements of migrants, including by kidnappings and homicides.


The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimated that as of 2016, there were at least 311,000 IDPs who had fled their homes and communities in response to criminal, political, and religiously motivated violence as well as natural disasters. In 2016 the CNDH released a report stating 35,433 IDPs were displaced due to drug trafficking violence, interreligious conflicts, and land disputes. At approximately 20,000, Tamaulipas reportedly had the highest number of IDPs followed by 2,165 in Guerrero and 2,008 in Chihuahua. NGOs estimated hundreds of thousands of citizens, many fleeing areas of armed conflict among organized criminal groups, or between the government and organized criminal groups, became internally displaced. The government, in conjunction with international organizations, made efforts to promote the safe, voluntary return, resettlement, or local integration of IDPs.


Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status and complementary protection, and the government has an established procedure for determining refugee status and providing protection to refugees. As of August COMAR had received 8,703 petitions, of which 1,007 had been accepted for review, 1,433 were marked as abandoned, 1,084 were not accepted as meeting the criteria, and 385 were accepted for protection. According to NGOs, only one–third of applicants was approved and the remaining two-thirds classified as economic migrants not meeting the legal requirements for asylum; applicants abandoned some petitions. NGOs reported bribes sometimes influenced the adjudication of asylum petitions and requests for transit visas.

The government worked with UNHCR to improve access to asylum and the asylum procedure, reception conditions for vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers, and integration (access to school and work) for those approved for refugee and complementary protection status. UNHCR also doubled the capacity of COMAR by funding an additional 36 staff positions.

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