PEN American Center will be in Geneva next week to press our concerns about free expression in Mexico, China, and Nigeria.

All three countries come under scrutiny this month as part of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process, which examines the human rights record of each UN member country every four years. Now in its sixth year, the UPR has become an vital mechanism for documenting and discouraging human rights violations around the world, and an important forum for PEN to focus international attention on countries where writers and journalists are especially at risk.

Very high on that list is Mexico, where forty-six journalists have been killed since 2006. PEN American Center has been protesting the violence against journalists in Mexico for more than a decade, and in 2012 we joined an international delegation to call for the federalization of crimes against journalists—crimes which previously went unsolved because they fell under state jurisdiction. The Senate voted to federalize the crimes, but the Mexican government has been slow to assert its new authority to investigate and prosecute attacks, as Freedom to Write director Larry Siems noted after a follow-up visit to Mexico earlier this year.

PEN’s UPR report, which was jointly submitted by PEN Guadalajara and PEN International, provides a sobering critique of the Mexican government’s failure to curtail the “censorship by bullet” in Mexico: at least 10 print and internet journalists were killed in 2012 alone and 90 percent of crimes against journalists are never solved. The report cites positive developments, including the creation of a special mechanism to protect human rights defenders that establishes institutions to receive formal complaints and administer security, but it notes that the office, like the office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression, lacks adequate resources to carry out its work.

Here are the full recommendations from PEN’s submission:

  • Ensure that the 46 murders and eight disappearances of writers and print and internet journalists that have taken place since December 2006, as well as any other unsolved murders and disappearances from previous periods, are properly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice;
  • Make public information on the state of the investigations into the murders of writers Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez Ávila, Susana Chávez Castillo and Guillermo Fernández García;
  • Ensure that all allegations of attacks against writers and print and internet journalists carried out by government entities at any level are fully and promptly investigated as a matter of urgency;
  • Ensure that all necessary secondary laws are passed in order to implement fully the amendment to Article 73, Clause 21 of the Mexican Constitution enabling federal authorities to investigate and prosecute crimes against journalists and freedom of expression, including making the necessary changes to the Federal Penal Code, the Federal Code on Penal Procedures and the Organic Law of the Federation’s Judiciary;
  • Ensure as a matter of urgency that FEADLE is allocated sufficient financial, material and human resources in order to carry out its work;
  • Address criticisms of the current protection mechanism for journalists and human rights defenders in consultation with these groups, and release a breakdown of related spending to date;
  • Ensure that steps are taken towards the complete decriminalisation of defamation in all 32 Mexican states;
  • Ensure that the Article 33 Regulatory Law is enacted as a matter of urgency and to provide assurances that foreigners are not being expelled from Mexico in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

You can read the full submission here (English) or here (Spanish). Check back tomorrow for more information about our submissions on China and Nigeria.