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The Mexico Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN-HCHR) expressed on Tuesday “deep concern” over the Mexican Army’s espionage on journalists and activists during the current administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
“These practices are serious acts of intrusion, violating human rights and undermining the population’s trust in state institutions,” said Guillermo Fernández-Maldonado, a representative in Mexico of the UN-HCHR in a statement issued by the organization.
The UN-HCHR referred to the hacking by the group “Guacamaya Leaks” of thousands of documents of the Ministry of National Defense (Sedena) and the journalistic investigation “Ejército Espía”, which last week disclosed that the Army would have spied, with López Obrador in power, on journalists and activists.
Although the president has said that his government “does not spy on anyone,” the international organization warned that “it is the duty of the Mexican State to clarify the scope of the intelligence, surveillance, and communications interception actions under which both civilian and military authorities operate.”
“Acts of unlawful surveillance have an intimidating effect and send a negative message of government intolerance of criticism, contrary to the free and safe environment that must be guaranteed for the exercise of the right to defend human rights and freedom of the press,” added Fernández-Maldonado.
The spying on journalists is revealed while the press in Mexico faces unprecedented violence, with 18 journalists murdered so far this year, according to the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA).
It also spreads amid Mexico’s increasing militarization policies, such as transferring control of the National Guard to the Army, a body that López Obrador promised to keep civilian by creating it in 2019. AMLO also created new state-owned companies for the Armed Forces to manage airports and the Tren Maya.
“The known facts corroborate the importance of civilian controls over the Armed Forces,” concluded Fernández-Maldonado.