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A march to protest the assassination of Rubén Espinosa, Mexican photojournalist, killed in 2015. More than 115 journalists have been killed in Mexico between 2017 and 2018. Photo: Wikipedia

Barcelona: A sanctuary city for threatened Mexican journalists

The city council of Barcelona has created a reception program for Mexican journalists who feel their life is under threat in their home country. The first…

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“Barcelona protege a periodistas de México”"Barcelona protects journalists from Mexico." The city council of Barcelona chose a simple and clear name for its first temporary reception program to provide accommodation, training and psychological support for journalists who feel threatened in Mexico.

"In Mexico, there is no justice. There have been no sentences for the murder of any journalist. The laws exist, but nobody complies with them," were the words of the first two journalists participating in this innovative program, as reported in Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia this week. They are Jacob Morales and Luis Daniel Nava, journalists from El Sur de Acapulco, in the state of Guerrero, ages 35 and 29, respectively. Both have received death threats for denouncing the violence and abuses committed by political and economic powers in Guerrero, one of the most violent areas in Mexico.

Endowed with a budget of 231,000 euros (about $247,000), the program — organized by the city of Barcelona, together with the local NGO Taula per Mèxic — provides journalists with accommodation, food, psychological and healthcare support, in addition to training, for a minimum period of three months. The goal of the program is to provide support and reinforce the personal and professional capacities of journalists who feel that their life is in danger in their country.

"Barcelona wants to become a sanctuary city for Mexican journalists who are activists and who see their lives threatened," said David Llistar, director of Global Justice and International Cooperation of Barcelona City Council, during a press conference to present the program, held on July 24. 

"They are both journalists who have given a face, name and context to those who are raping their people, to the parasites of drug trafficking, and the networks that are installed in the governments and bodies of the state," added Llistar, as reported by EFE.

According to Nava and Morales, one of the main reasons that explain why violence against journalists is so persistent in Mexico is the impunity that all the actors involved enjoy: from local politicians to influential businessmen, police or drug lords, they all manage to escape from being convicted. Both Nava and Morales are confident that the newly elected president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, of the leftist coalition "Morena," will fulfill his promise to end impunity and violence in his country. 

"AMLO has the support of a large majority to make the necessary changes to guarantee peace and make sure freedom and justice become a reality once and for all," said the journalists, who from Barcelona hope to internationalize their cause and defend press freedom in Mexico — a basic pillar of democracy.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. Between 2000 and the end of 2018, 115 reporters have been killed and the threats are constant, according to Article 19, an independent organization that defends freedom of expression. In 2017 alone, 12 reporters were killed.

"I had to choose between leaving Acapulco or facing the consequences," Morales said during the press conference in Barcelona. He explained that he received a death threat by phone by someone unknown while investigating the clashes that sparked the construction of a hydroelectric project in La Parota, in which eleven people were killed.

Nava explained that he suffered two violent assaults in the last two years. Nava was focused on covering social movements and violence in the region of Sierra de Guerrero. According to La Vanguardia, both reporters blame the government for being an accomplice in the violence against journalists, especially the politicians of PRI, the party of the outgoing president, Enrique Peña Nieto, whom they accuse of having looked the other way when it came to defending freedom of the press.

Prior to the two journalists from El Sur de Acapulco, Mexican reporter and writer Carlos Juarez spent some time in Barcelona. Juarez holds a degree in communication sciences and currently works for a medium in Tamaulipas, researching security, human rights and environmental issues, and is a correspondent for Aristegui Noticias. As reported by the organization Taula per Mèxic, which works for peace and human rights in Mexico from Barcelona, Juarez has been working for three years to investigate disappearances in Tamaulipas and has been threatened with death. 

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