'Press, don't shoot,' reads the banner held by journalists during a protest calling for justice.

Protection program for journalists, rights defenders unsustainable: UN

A report predicts that the number of journalists and human rights defenders needing protection will triple by 2024

A government program to protect journalists and human rights defenders is plagued by underfunding, bad management and a lack of coordination, according to a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR).

The report found that the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which was created in 2012, has a budget of 207.6 million pesos (US $10.5 million) for 2019, enough to cover only 64% of the projected costs for the year, and less than it received in 2018 and 2017.

The scheme was providing protection to 903 people by April 30 of this year, a number that is expected to rise to 1,131 by the end of the year, with a projected cost of 325 million pesos. Of those receiving protection, 582 are human rights defenders, while the remaining 321 are journalists.

On April 4, the Interior Secretariat requested an additional 150 million pesos for the program, but there has been no word on the outcome.

The OHCHR report predicts that there will be approximately 3,400 people needing protection by 2024, and warned that as the number of beneficiaries grows, the program will become inefficient and unsustainable.

“To guarantee a more effective functioning of the Mechanism, the Mexican state should make sure that it receives the necessary human, economic and material resources so that its functionaries can fulfill their mandate of protection,” said the report.

With 36 employees, the program is also understaffed, according to the report. The employees responsible for reevaluations have an average case load of 155 beneficiaries and as of April 24, the program was three months behind on reevaluations and evaluations.

In its recommendations to the government, the OHCHR joined the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in calling for the transparency and functioning of the program to be improved.

Source: El Economista (sp)

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