The European Parliament (EP) condemned the harassment and killing of journalists and human rights defenders in Mexico Thursday, drawing an extraordinarily blunt reply from the president’s office that likened European lawmakers to sheep.
The federal government responded by accusing European lawmakers of “corruption, lies and hypocrisy” and describing them as misinformed sheep following the lead of its adversaries.
With an overwhelming majority of lawmakers voting in favor, the EP approved a resolution Thursday that said that attacks against journalists and human rights defenders, including environmental defenders and indigenous people and communities, are “dramatically rising” in Mexico.
It noted that Mexico has long been the most dangerous and deadliest place for journalists outside an official war zone, and that it was the most dangerous country in the world for journalists for a third consecutive year in 2021, according to Reporters Without Borders.
In a bloody start to 2022, eight media workers have been killed, at least six of whom were practicing journalists.
In that context, the EP called on authorities to investigate the murders of journalists and human rights defenders “in a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial manner.”
It also noted “with concern the systematic and tough critiques used by the highest authorities of the Mexican government against journalists and their work” and called on authorities to “refrain from issuing any communication which could stigmatize human rights defenders, journalists and media workers, exacerbate the atmosphere against them or distort their lines of investigation.”
The EP specifically called out President López Obrador, saying that he has “frequently used populist rhetoric in daily press briefings to denigrate and intimidate independent journalists, media owners and activists.”
“… The rhetoric of abuse and stigmatization generates an atmosphere of relentless unrest towards independent journalists,” it said.
It is the first time that the EP has passed such a resolution directed at a foreign government. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also expressed concern about violence against journalists in Mexico, although he didn’t directly criticize the president.
The federal government responded with a statement issued by the president’s office late Thursday.
“To the members of the European Parliament, enough corruption, lies and hypocrisy,” it began, adding that it was regrettable that the lawmakers have “joined like sheep the reactionary and coup-mongering strategy of the corrupt group opposed to the fourth transformation,” the government’s self-anointed nickname.
“… Mexico has ceased being a land of conquest and, like few times in its history, libertarian principles of equality and democracy are being enforced. No one is repressed here, freedom of speech and the work of journalists is respected. The state doesn’t violate human rights as occurred in previous governments, when you, by the way, maintained complicit silence,” the government told the European parliamentarians.
“… If we were in the situation you describe in your pamphlet, our president wouldn’t be supported by 66% of citizens,” it said, citing a new opinion poll.
“… Inform yourselves and read the resolutions presented to you well before you cast your vote. And don’t forget that we’re no longer anybody’s colony. Mexico is a free, independent and sovereign country. Evolve, leave behind your meddlesome obsession disguised as good intentions. You’re not the world’s government,” the statement said.
López Obrador on Friday called the EP resolution “libelous” and “completely false,” and revealed that he, communications coordinator Jesús Ramírez and “other colleagues” wrote the response on their way to Tapachula, where the president’s Friday morning press conference was held.
He also said that arrests have been made in all but one of the murders of journalists this year, although he only acknowledged five.
On Thursday, López Obrador asserted that his government is protecting journalists before claiming that his adversaries are using the murders of such people to “weaken” his administration.
“We have special protection for journalists,” he said, referring to the government program designed to prevent violence against those deemed to be at risk.
“… Those being murdered are humble journalists doing their work in different parts of the country, the journalists at the service of the magnates don’t have any risk. … There is a campaign against the government I represent taking advantage of this regrettable situation; they’re looking for a way to weaken us,” López Obrador said.