Some critics say Borbollas appointment is symptomatic of the disinterest in prosecuting crimes against journalists. Rather than picking a heavyweight within the Attorney Generals Office to head the division now called the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression her superiors picked a younger lawyer with no prosecutorial experience. Borbolla previously had spent seven years handling extradition requests.
Shes a good person. Her collaborative attitude is aimed at advancing investigations, said Balbina Flores, the representative in Mexico of Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based advocacy group. But she doesnt have the expertise of an investigating prosecutor.
Flores said none of the four federal prosecutors whove occupied the post since it was created has achieved significant results: Not a single (murder) case has been cleared up. This is what is most serious.
Prosecutors are even more likely to allow cases of journalists who vanish, presumably at the hands of gangsters, to gather dust.
To give you an example, the best documented case of a missing journalist is Jose Alfredo Jimenez of El Imparcial, who went missing in April 2005, Flores said, referring to a newspaper in Hermosillo in Sonora state. There are no results, and the case is eight years old.
The impunity surrounding attacks on the media has many facets, including public attitudes that little can be done to protect a free flow of information.
We have the defect in Mexico of assuming that journalism is a high-risk activity in which threats or abuse are intrinsic, Borbolla told a hemispheric forum of the Inter-American Press Association in Puebla in March.
Mexican lawmakers have agreed to spend money on the problem they financed programs to protect freedom of expression to the tune of nearly $100 million through the National Human Rights Commission, a government-funded body. But theres little practical effect from such an astronomical sum, and television journalist Karla Iberia Sanchez recently denounced it at a recent news conference as waste.
For its part, Mexico Citys local legislature allotted more than $1 million to set up a safe house and fund a program for reporters fleeing threats elsewhere in the nation. To the ire of some journalists, the ramshackle property is on a historic register, and the facility has yet to be renovated even as managers eat up remaining money with high salaries and other expenses.
Borbolla and her team of nearly 20 investigators are based out of an office in Mexicos Citys historic downtown. They have about 300 open investigations, 26 of them involving murders of journalists.
The probes of two of the murder cases have concluded, arrest warrants issued, and case files turned over to judges, she said. Those cases involve three deaths those of two reporters for a community radio station in southern Mexicos Oaxaca state in 2008 and the third of a journalist killed in Coahuila state in 2010.
Yet in Mexicos multilayered public security apparatus, turning over a case to a judge is no guarantee that suspects will face justice.
Borbolla says her office has issued more than 30 arrest warrants for suspects in different cases, all of which linger.
Other changes come in small steps. Up until mid-2012, her division was not empowered to solicit wiretaps, having to ask other divisions in the Attorney Generals Office to do so. That has changed, she said.
Weve now got several investigations going with tapped phone lines, she added.
Such changes are leading to an increased pace of prosecution, she said.
Investigations now are significantly more solid, Borbolla said. This is not all that we would wish, but you cant say weve done nothing or gotten no results because this is not true.
Danger to journalists in Mexico