ESCR-Net denounces media smear campaign against Mexican members

Publish Date: 
Monday, May 16, 2016

The International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) has denounced the recent smear campaign being waged by the Mexican media against organizations and individuals working to defend human rights in Mexico.

In recent months, several Mexican media sources have launched an intense campaign to defame various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and human rights defenders active in Mexico – deriding and devaluing efforts to defend and promote social justice and human rights.

This campaign has also targeted international institutions and mechanisms, including various United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs, the UN Human Rights Council and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). As a point in common, all of these institutions have denounced human rights violations as a grave problem plaguing Mexico.

In an op-ed letter published by the online news portal, Chris Grove – Executive Director of ESCR-Net – voices the network's serious concern regarding the development of this smear campaign and highlights the positive human rights achievements and impacts advanced by Mexican members of ESCR-Net.

In the letter, included below in English and available on the Animal Politico website (in Spanish), Grove also articulates consternation in relation to the Mexican government’s silence on the defamation campaign. In a strong statement, he urges that “it is important for the government to adopt a firm position regarding human rights in its domestic and foreign policies, starting with a condemnation of the media campaign of harassment against national NGOs.”


In Defense of Those Defending Human Rights in Mexico 

Around the world, it is well known that struggles against abuses and for social justice have often defined the character of Mexican history. Thirty-five years ago, Mexico ratified the two principal international human rights treaties, confirming its obligation to ensure human rights. These treaties were the result of peoples’ struggles against inequalities, and they form an essential source of the political, moral and legal legitimacy of our societies and our search for justice and shared prosperity.

At the international level, human rights organizations in Mexico are a benchmark for other non-governmental organizations (NGO) around the world and enjoy well-deserved recognition for their leadership in defense of fundamental rights and social equality.

As noted by the members of the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), composed of more than 270 organizations across 70 countries working to advance human rights and social justice, our Mexican members are valuable allies in sharing knowledge, experience, support, and solidarity.

In recent years, Mexican organizations have supported fellow ESCR-Net member organizations in Asia, Africa and other countries in Latin America to use international strategies and instruments in order to improve women's rights. This has included contributing to briefing papers on women's rights related to land, work and health, reflecting deep experience in advancing struggles for equality.

Regarding rights to housing and land, various Mexican organizations have made valuable contributions to developing global strategies that are improving the well-being of people and the communities in which they live, with particular attention to the rights of indigenous communities.

Mexican human rights defenders and organizations have also strongly advocated rights related to the environment and shared their knowledge and experience with other international activists. It is worth remembering, for example, that the well-known environmentalist and ESCR-Net member, Gustavo Castro, was preparing a training for Honduran activists when he witnessed the tragic murder of Berta Cáceres.

In sum, ESCR-Net members in Mexico have an excellent reputation and immense legitimacy at the international level, serving as a reference point in many areas of work. This is why our Corporate Accountability Working Group will hold an important meeting with Latin American civil society organizations in Mexico City, in May, in order to shape a future United Nations treaty to stengthen accountability for human rights violations caused by corporate actors. 

In this context, ESCR-Net members around the world cannot hide their serious concern regarding the recent smear campaign to which Mexican organizations and human rights defenders have been subjected in Mexican media outlets. 

Although public accusations designed to disparage and defame well-known NGOs are concerning, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the orchestrated media campaign is also taking aim at international institutions and mechanisms whose creation was achieved thanks to the work of the Mexican State itself. 

We refer, for example, to the efforts to discredit the United Nations Special Rapporteur against torture, Juan Méndez, who revealed evidence of the generalized nature of torture in Mexico, or those undertaken against the United Nations Committee against Forced Disappearance and the Group of Independent Experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, after both institutions shed light on the investigation of the disappearance of  43 students from Guerrero.

Additionally, we are aware that in spite of a policy of open and permanent invitation from Mexico to the Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council, the current lack of response from the Secretary of Foreign Relations is preventing, in practice, the official visit of various UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights issues. 

While this campaign of vilification against the legitimate work of human rights defenders and their organizations has a serious impact on their safety, as evidenced in threats and harassment, the silence of Mexican authorities regarding this campaign is equally concerning. 

The silence of the Mexican executive branch could be interpreted as a sign of approval and consent. At a moment when many eyes are on Mexico, due to the difficulties that the country is facing, it is important for the government to adopt a firm position regarding human rights in its domestic and foreign policies, starting with a condemnation of the media campaign of harassment against national NGOs.

We understand that the country must acknowledge its enormous human rights challenges, in order to effectively address them and achieve the realization of human rights. In doing so, Mexico is fortunate to be able to count on the legitimate and valuable work of its human rights and wider civil society organizations.

Chris Grove, Executive Director of the International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net). 

Photo Credit: Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos