Mexico's president pledges to help protect journalists

In this Jan. 23, 2017 photo, Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto makes a pause during a press conference at the Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City.

AP

MEXICO CITY -- Shouts of "justice" echoed from the press corps Wednesday moments after Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto called for a moment of silence for journalists who have been murdered at a frightening pace.

The president's hastily called meeting with his security cabinet and the country's governors was meant to show a united response to the slaying of reporters from one corner of Mexico to the other so far this year. On Monday, Javier Valdez in Culiacan, Sinaloa, became the sixth journalist slain in less than three months in six different states.

"Violence can't be part of daily life," Pena Nieto said. "Each crime against a journalist is a strike against freedom of expression and the press and the citizenry."

The gathering was titled "actions for freedom of expression and protection of journalists and defenders," but as is customary, Pena Nieto did not take questions.

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In this photo released by Riodoce, journalist Javier Valdez poses for a photo an unknown location in Mexico. Valdez, a veteran reporter who specialized in covering drug trafficking and organized crime, was slain Mon., May 15 2017, in the northern Mexico state of Sinaloa, the latest in a wave of journalist killings in one of the world's most dangerous countries for media workers. Valdez is the sixth journalist to be murdered in Mexico in just over two months, and the second high-profile reporter to be slain in the country this decade after Regina Martinez Perez, who was killed in 2012.

AP

The president sketched out three measures, but without details.

He promised more resources to help journalists under threat and for the special prosecutor's office tasked with investigating crimes against journalists.

Both measures have so far proven ineffective in stopping the bloodshed among the country's media workers. Mexico ranks behind only Syria and Afghanistan for such murders.

Pena Nieto also called for better coordination between federal and state authorities and the development of protocols for handling such investigations.

While slayings of journalists draw attention, they are not an aberration in a country with steadily deteriorating security. Homicides in general were up 29 percent in the first quarter of 2017.

Pena Nieto seemed to allude to that fact Wednesday, saying, "The murder of journalists and human rights defenders often is a symptom of greater phenomenon of impunity."

On Tuesday evening, several hundred journalists gathered in front of Mexico's Interior Department to protest the killings.

One of them, Alejandro Paez Varela, content director for the online outlet SinEmbargo.mx, said Valdez's murder -- in broad daylight and just a block from his newspaper Riodoce's office -- was a demonstration of impunity.

"They kill because they can kill. And they kill because they never go after them," said Paez Varela. "That is the federal government's fault."