Mexico City, May 2 (IANS/EFE) The lower house of the Mexican Congress approved a bill that includes urgent measures to protect journalists and human rights defenders.
The measure, which now goes to President Felipe Calderon for his signature, was backed by all 338 members present at the final session of the current legislature, just two days after the murder of prominent reporter Regina Martinez.
The bill obliges the three levels of government to establish measures to protect the lives, integrity, freedom and safety of journalists and human rights activists who are in "a situation of risk".
The government must also offer protection to their families and adopt security measures in their workplaces, according to the law.
During the debate on the bill, legislators agreed that the increase in violence has made Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to practice journalism and to defend human rights.
"Currently, the human rights defenders and journalists see themselves as silenced, gagged and they even run the risk of having their freedom of expression restricted," said Arturo Villasenor, a congressman with the governing conservative National Action Party, or PAN.
After approving the bill, the lawmakers observed a minute of silence in tribute to Martinez, who was found strangled to death inside her home in Zalapa, capital of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.
Mexico, where nearly 80 journalists have been murdered and several others have disappeared since 2000, is considered the world's second most dangerous country for members of the media.
Journalists have increasingly been targeted by drug traffickers and other organized crime groups, especially in northern Mexico.
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