GENEVA/WASHINGTON (24 April 2018) – Two human rights experts are calling on the authorities in Mexico to ensure a proposed law on government advertising establishes effective safeguards for media independence and freedom of expression.
“Government officials in Mexico spend billions of pesos annually on advertising but the lack of regulation poses a serious risk to media independence and infringes upon the public’s right to information,” said Edison Lanza, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
“Mexico has an obligation to establish laws regulating Government advertising with clear rules regarding its objectives, allocation criteria and procedures in order to curtail any discriminatory or arbitrary use of these funds,” they stressed.
In a landmark ruling on 15 November 2017, the Mexican Supreme Court ordered Congress to develop regulations for government advertising before 30 April 2018, and the proposed legislation introduced to Congress seeks to comply with that ruling. The Mexican Chamber of Deputies approved the measure on April 10 in a process that has been described as lacking meaningful consultation with civil society and other interested parties. The draft is now being discussed in the Senate, where lawmakers have demanded changes.
In their preliminary findings at the end of their joint official visit to Mexico last December, the two experts welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling and urged Mexico’s Congress not only to adopt clear and public rules governing advertising that ensure regular and specific reporting, but also to develop a plan to progressively limit such expenditure altogether, in consultation with civil society and relevant experts.
In their latest statement, the experts said: “We are concerned the proposed law continues to leave a wide margin of discretion to government officials to establish criteria for the allocation and use of Government funds for advertising.”
The experts stressed: “Pre-established criteria with clear government obligations to explain the legal grounds and reasons behind decisions regarding allocation of advertising funds is essential to prevent abuse and excessive spending.
“The law should clearly prohibit the use of government advertising for electoral or partisan purposes or to infringe upon media freedom and establish mechanisms for external oversight by an autonomous body,” they said.
“The lack of an effective system of accountability for failure to comply with the law is a concern. The law should provide for accountability procedures, backed by penalties and appropriate remedies,” the experts emphasized.
“We welcome the new discussions in the Senate and call on lawmakers to carry out a thorough reassessment of the proposed legislation, with meaningful consultations for civil society and others, to ensure the new law complies with international human rights standards,” they said.
Mr. Edison Lanza is the IACHR Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression . The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defence of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.
Mr. David Kaye, as UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.