Mar 8, 2012

Drug War and the Media: Mexico media watchdog presents its third report on media coverage of violence

Milenio: "The Center for Public Communication Processes Regarding Violence (OPCPV) presented its third report on the 'Agreement on Media Coverage of Violence', which covers the period November 2011to January 2012 and lists a series of recommendations to the media, the authorities and spokesmen for public institutions.

The Center concurred that both public institutions and the media should refrain from leaking or disseminating preliminary inquiries in a criminal investigation, because it is illegal and may violate rights, such as the presumption of innocence, and protection of personal image, private life and reputation.

Spokesmen for the authorities and public institutions should also not become a sounding board for messages from organized crime through their dissemination to the media. Examples include situations in which authorities or the media provide the content of banners or placards allegedly made by members of criminal groups. In this regard, it recalls that the National Accord for Security, Justice and Legality, signed on August 21, 2008 by all government and many media, states that media should avoid advocacy of crime.

It further recommends "protecting, according to the highest standards, the rights to dignity and reputation without distinction. It concurs with the organization 'Article 19', which warns against differential treatment in trials for crimes against military and civilian personnel."

The report also stresses the importance of avoiding language that reaffirms the imaginary of organized crime and to limit the explanations of violent events to the facts.

This citizen institution also recommends that the media should also disseminate to citizens alternative strategies for dealing with drug trafficking.

The Center noted that in coverage of the forum on "Drugs: An Assessment of a Century of Prohibition" only some media reported criticisms of the government's strategy and that was new for the Mexican media environment. Opening the media to debate must be a commitment made to the thousands of victims left by the violence emanating from organized crime."

... Moreover, media ought to carry out more and better investigations into abuses by security forces in the fight against organized crime and utilize more requests for access to government information for the development of journalistic investigations.

Also, when publishiing images of persons, media ought to use technical methods that can protect the identity, privacy and dignity of victims of violence and their families. While giving continuity to cases of violence through investigative journalism, it should be an ethical imperative to protect the victims in order to combat impunity.

Also, any moral bias in the approach to the issue of organized crime and violence should be avoided. Do not make descriptions of events that veer from the facts towards judgemental narratives that present the actors in terms of "good" and "bad".

The Media Centre insists on the importance of protecting the right to presumption of innocence and avoiding trials via the media.

... The full report, and the inputs and methodology used in its preparation are available on its website: www.observatoriocomunicacionviolencia.orgSpanish original

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