Interview with Pedro Cárdenas Casillas, Mexico and Central America

ARTICLE 19 – Mexico and Central America Office


ARTICLE 19 was founded in London, UK, in 1987, and takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The regional Mexico and Central America office began operations in 2006. As an independent and nonpartisan organization, it promotes and defends the rights of freedom of expression and access to information of all people, in accordance with the highest international standards of human rights, thus helping to strengthen democracy.

The Mexico and Central America office envisions a region where all people can express themselves with freedom, security, and equality, and exercise their right to access information, engaging society in informed decision-making about themselves and their community, for the full achievement of other human rights.

Pedro Cárdenas Casillas

Protection Coordinator

Pedro Cárdenas Casillas is the protection coordinator for ARTICLE 19’s Mexico and Central America office. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in international relations from the Tec de Monterrey, Campus Monterrey, and a Master’s Degree in law and diplomacy, with concentrations in public international law and human security, from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University (Boston, MA, USA). He holds a certificate in political studies from the Institute of Political Studies of Aix-en-Provence in France, and a diploma in international mechanisms for the protection of human rights from the University of Zaragoza and CLADH.

Prior to ARTICLE 19, he was a human rights observer for the field team at Peace Brigades International in Guatemala, an intern at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (Washington, DC, USA), and a researcher for the “Human Rights Project” at the Fletcher School.


What is the role of your organization, and what has been your career path in recent years?

In recent years, ARTICLE 19 has grown both geographically and through its projects and programs.

  • Proactive Transparency Project: Focuses on strengthening the exercise of the right to information in vulnerable populations and in indigenous and rural communities in Chiapas, Yucatán, and Oaxaca.
  • Central America Program: Promotes freedom of expression through training journalists, generating and strengthening alliances for the promotion of local policies, and international advocacy for the countries of Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
  • Right to Truth Program: Dedicated to gaining access to official information and promoting memory and truth around cases related to serious human rights violations.
  • In the Digital Rights Program: Defends human rights exercised through access and/or use of information and communication technologies (ICT).
  • Protection and Defense Program: The main task is the defense and protection of journalists and the media who are at risk or suffer violence due to the exercise of their journalism, and it is done through various accompaniment strategies, ranging from documentation of assaults through litigation. Additionally, this program conducts research on the causes and context that permit and encourage violence against the press and designs and implements advocacy strategies and dialogue with different actors.

Broadly speaking, what would you say is the main challenge to freedom of expression in your country?

In Mexico, we can talk about two main challenges: 1) fear of violence and 2) the correct application of existing regulatory frameworks. On the one hand, freedom of expression is curtailed if those who seek to exercise it are afraid of reprisals, either from authorities or groups outside the law such as organized crime. Regarding the second point, the Mexican colloquialism “There is a long way from right to fact” reflects the failures of a system that still does not work. Although several legal frameworks to protect freedom of expression exist both at the constitutional level and in state legislatures, these frameworks are not applied. Examples of this can be failures to implement victim protection protocols and due process in investigations, as well as constant impunity in cases of violence against the press and human rights defenders. In this sense, a great challenge is to transform “paper” laws into effective processes that allow for the full exercise of freedom of expression.

Does this challenge extend to the world of journalism? How do journalists in your country experience it?

The issue of violence against the press is a critical issue in Mexico. From 2000-22, ARTICLE 19 documented 2,950 attacks against journalists and the media, including 161 murders and 31 journalists who are still missing. Just last year, the organization documented 696 assaults, an average of one every 13 hours. Unfortunately, the press finds itself between a rock and a hard place – with authorities who stigmatize them by treating them as adversaries, do not respond efficiently to acts of violence against the press, and do not investigate the facts. Consider, for example, that since the creation of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression in 2012, over 97% of its cases have not been sentenced.

What resources do citizens have to access public information? What is this like in practice?

Mexico’s National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information, and Protection of Personal Data (INAI) is an autonomous body that must guarantee compliance with two fundamental rights: access to public information and protection of personal data. The federal state entities also have state institutes to guarantee these rights. To some extent, and with some limitations, INAI and its counterparts have succeeded in building a foundation, albeit shaky, on access to information requests. Unfortunately, public authorities use “national security” and other limitations as an excuse for not providing citizens with information they should have access to. In the last year, the institutions are being labeled as “unnecessary bureaucracy,” and this administration has even tried to advocate for eliminating INAI.

Mexico is a clear example of resilience, where journalists and human rights defenders have worked not only to improve regulatory frameworks for the press but have also continued to demand ... an end to violence against journalists and the media."

What lessons can your national context offer to the regional struggle for freedom of expression? How do you propose to advance the regional struggle?

Mexico is a clear example of resilience, where journalists and human rights defenders have worked not only to improve regulatory frameworks for the press but have also continued to demand – for three six-year terms now – an end to violence against journalists and the media. Many journalists have managed to develop self-care processes, support networks among journalists, and rapid response chats during situations of violence. Living in one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism, they are able to share stories of struggle with colleagues in the region to highlight both success stories and what still needs to be done to protect the press.

What do you think is your organization's most important contribution to the Voces del Sur network?

ARTICLE 19 has 17 years of experience in advocacy, investigations, documentation of human rights violations against journalists, and victim accompaniment. In recent years, it has focused on applying intersectional perspectives and a gender lens to its investigations, as well as linking individual violations to a macro-criminal context where violence against journalists is not isolated but part of broader sociopolitical violence. The organization can contribute to Voces del Sur in these areas to continue expanding its members’ experiences and knowledge.

Contact ARTICLE 19

Published on August 3, 2023.

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