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The Week in Mexico via Civil Society and Storify

Submitted by on May 28, 2011 – 11:35 pmNo Comment

Civil society organizations are becoming increasingly adept at using social media to communicate to a wider public. While they continue to send traditional press releases to newspaper reporters and broadcast media, they are also increasingly discovering that social media platforms like Twitter allow for greater possibilities of two-way communication, debate, and networking among partners.

Información Cívica is an initiative of the Latin America and Information programs of Open Society Foundations. Through the use of Storify, an online tool that creates embeddable curations of digital media from various sources, we will begin publishing weekly summaries of what Open Society Foundation partners in various countries around Latin America are sharing via their websites, blogs, and social media accounts. This week we begin in Mexico. Most of the content, of course, is in Spanish, but further below I will provide an overview in English.

Let’s start from the beginning. Por la Educación (For Education) is a coalition of concerned citizens and NGOs that advocates for a more inclusive and higher quality education system in Mexico. The above Twitter message links to an opinion piece by Arturo Alfaro Galán which argues that the Mexican teachers’ union has too much control in a national program that evaluates and recognizes teacher performance.

On the blog of Locallis, a Querétaro-based organization that focuses on municipal transparency and development, they present the findings of a two-day evaluation on the amount of information available on municipal websites in the state of Querétaro, just north of Mexico City. They found that none of the 18 municipalities are in 100% accordance with Querétaro’s access to information law, but of the 18 reviewed, Ezequiel Montes and Jalpan received the highest ranking at 55.4% accordance, while Pedro Escobedo — with a population of 10,000 and no municipal website — only achieved 1.8% accordance with the law. A table with the full list of the rankings is available, but unfortunately Locallis does not describe or link to their methodology.

Sonora Ciudadana, a transparency and civic participation organization in the northern state of Sonora, posted a photo to its Twitter account of an employee handing out brochures to recruit citizens to form a committee to hold the Mexican national health institute (IMSS) accountable. You can read more about Sonora Ciudadana’s access to healthcare initiative at the Open Society Foundations’ website.

CIMTRA, another organization focused on municipal-level transparency, linked to a piece appearing in El Universal which provides a useful overview of the current state of Mexico’s Federal Transparency and Access to Information Law ten years after the catalytic Grupo Oaxaca Declaration. According to the article, Juan Francisco Escobedo, one of the key members of the Grupo Oaxaca, challenged the Federal Institute for Access to Information (IFAI) to once again use access to information to bring about greater political accountability. Jacqueline Peschard, president of IFAI, accepted the challenge.

The Institute for Security and Democracy recently launched a new blog, meDios by Marco Lara, which examines the coverage and treatment of violence by Mexican media. In his most recent post he draws readers in with a headline that lists some of the journalistic and political celebrities he met at the 2011 Central American Journalism Forum that was held in San Salvador from May 16 – 21. Lara’s review of the annual journalism conference is glowing, beginning first with his admiration of the Salvadorean online investigative journalism outlet, El Faro. The first evening of the conference, Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui interviewed Salvadorean president, Mauricio Funes, in front of a live audience. Much of their discussion, apparently, focused of the investigative piece “The Texis Cartel,” which was published the same day by El Faro and describes the various interests involved in protecting a cocaine transit route that stretches across the north of the country from Honduras to Guatemala. Abbreviated English versions of the investigative piece are available at Insight Crime and Tim’s El Salvador Blog. Lara goes on to describe a teleconference call with Julian Assange who has given El Faro exclusive access to Wikileaks content about El Salvador and describes a few of the workshops and debates that made up the rest of the forum’s agenda. He concludes by pointing readers to two new journalistic initiatives in Mexico, Nuestra Transparencia and Reporte Media.

Another of INSYDE’s many initiatives is the Presumption of Innocence in Mexico Project, which gained a big boost after the theater release of Presumed Guilty, Mexico’s most-watched documentary. In 2009 the Open Society Justice Initiative published an 80-page book by Guillermo Zepeda titled “How much does prison without conviction cost?,” which found that 42% of Mexico’s prison population have never been convicted of a crime. Though the book is available online as a free-to-download PDF, it is doubtful that many readers will dedicate so much time to such a specialized topic. Fortunately, the project has learned to re-package the content of the book, posting excerpts online and linking to the sources for cited statistics. Those blog posts are then further re-packaged as easy-to-digest Tweets which are distributed by the project’s followers. For example, this tidbit: “The cost of preventive prison in Mexico could cover the school breakfast costs of 21,000 students.”

Fundar is Mexico’s most well known transparency organization. A couple of months ago they launched a new initiative, Publicidad Oficial, which questions the use of the Mexican government’s communication budget. Diego de la Mora, the lead researcher on the project, has begun blogging at Animal Politico with weekly updates. This past week he commented on a story appearing in Proceso Magazine by prolific journalist Jenaro Villamil about the Public Security Secretary’s (SSP) investment of nearly USD $13 million for Televisa to produce a new television series called Equipo, which shows the Federal Police in a positive light under the tag line “they know that good conquers evil.” De la Mora refers to the TV series as blatant war propaganda, meant to convince a nation to support an unpopular use of military force, and points readers to the theories of Jean Marie Domenach who is noted for his writings about political propaganda.

We’ll leave it there for now, but readers are encouraged to click on more of the above links to learn more about the “No Means No” campaign; the forced internal migration of thousands of residents of Tierra Caliente, Michoacan as they flee violence; why Article 19 criticizes the G8’s Declaration on Internet; and why Mexicans are mostly ignoring the brutal crimes against Central American migrants.

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