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Mexico fights crime with . . . censorship

On Mexico’s central Pacific coast, in the state of Sinaloa, where drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's cartel has terrorized the local police and populace for decades, lawmakers have now limited what journalists can report about violent crime.

"The Sinaloa state Congress late Thursday approved a law that will restrict journalists to official government press releases for crime information. Journalists will be banned from inspecting the scene, recording audio on site or taking any photographs or video," the Los Angeles Times said.

Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto has been trying to downplay reports of drug wars and violent crime. He doesn't want the news to scare outside investors, the report said.

The new law will "drastically limit the details available to reporters attempting to inform the public about killings, gun battles and other such common occurrences in the western Pacific state -- as well as any possible abuses by authorities," the LA Times said.

“They want only the official version to get out,” said Javier Valdez, co-founder of Sinaloa’s most independent news source, Riodoce. “This is a huge attack on the freedom of expression.”

It's understandable that Mexico's politicians want to limit real reporting from its lawless regions. But a side effect of muzzling the press is often more corruption and less foreign investment.

Corruption needs dark corners to flourish, we've said. So as you'd expect, countries with the most press freedom tend to have the lowest levels of perceived graft and the strongest economies. And most countries where press freedom doesn't exist are mired in corruption and poverty.

Even before Sinaloa imposed the new restrictions, Mexico ranked a dismal 153 out of 179 countries on the Press Freedom Index. And on the latest Corruption Perceptions Index, Mexico ranked 106, tied with Bolivia, Gabon, and Niger.

Among the best-ranked countries on the Press Freedom Index, with their CPI ranks in parentheses, are Finland (3), the Netherlands (8), Norway (5), Luxembourg (11), Denmark (1), New Zealand (1), Iceland (12), and  Sweden (3).

Among the worst countries on the Press Freedom Index with their CPI ranks in parentheses are Sudan (174), Cuba (63), Vietnam (116), China (80), Iran (144), Somalia (175), Syria (168), Turkmenistan (168), North Korea (175), and Eritrea (160).

The lesson? Deciding where to invest money based on a country's press freedom ranking wouldn't be a bad idea.

Mexico, take note.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.