[JURIST] Mexican President Felipe Calderon [official website] Thursday signed a decree decriminalizing libel and defamation, offenses previously punishable by prison sentences. Henceforward they will be punishable by fine and subject to civil suits. The move has already garnered the approval of media groups [Es Mas report] such as the Inter American Press Association (SIP) [official website], which praised the fact that critics of the government can no longer be imprisoned or threatened with imprisonment. In his signing remarks Calderon declared that "every threat to the free press is a threat to democracy," and pledged [press release] to take greater measures to protect journalists from the intimidation and violence that they frequently face. According to SIP free press committee president Gonzalo Marroquin, eight Mexican journalists have been killed since October. Marroquin praised the government for the Thursday arrest of the suspected killers [El Universal report] of investigative reporter Amado Ramirez, who was shot to death in Acapulco last week.
Last month Calderon proposed a series of changes [JURIST report] to the Mexican criminal justice system in the wake of an Amnesty International [advocacy website] report that current law perpetuated human rights abuses [JURIST report] and afforded impunity to many criminals. Recently, Mexican lawmakers have reduced prison sentences for drug possession and proposed loosening the ban on abortion [JURIST reports]. AP has more. El Universal has additional coverage [in Spanish].