05 February 2008

IAPA concerned anti-media violence in Mexico


IAPA concerned anti-media violence in Mexico is leading to self-censorship


MIAMI, Florida (February 6, 2008)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today stressed its concern that the climate of fear sparked by a crime wave is causing news media and individual journalists in Mexico to resort to self-censorship after a prominent newspaper decided to restrict coverage of organized crime to avoid acts of vengeance.


“Only official information released by government authorities in official communiqués will be published from now on,” the Norte de Ciudad Juárez declared in an editorial on January 31st. The announcement was in response to telephoned threats made to crime reporter Carlos Huerta Muñoz by what appeared to be drug traffickers the previous day. The Chihuahua state daily newspaper cited lack of protection by the city, state and federal governments.


Other news media in the city, including Diario de Juárez and Canal 44 television, also received threats.


IAPA President Earl Maucker stated “we regret that once again a voice raised against organized crime has been silenced in Mexico, and this is a direct attack on the public’s right to information.”


“The newspaper’s action is understandable;” added Maucker, editor and senior vice president of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, “it calls for greater force and the appropriate response by the authorities so that rule of law and freedom of the press can be ensured in the country.”


The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, recalled that the newspapers Norte and Diario de Juárez took part in a meeting of border region publishers held by the IAPA in Hermosillo in August 2005, together with Cambio in Sonora state – a paper that stopped operating to avoid the violence confronting its employees last year.  .


The resulting Declaration of Hermosillo, written in response to the increased violence being unleashed against news media, called on state and federal governments to take concrete steps to solve the crimes, put them under federal jurisdiction and ensure they not be subject to any statute of limitations, among other steps.


Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, said, “It is disappointing to see that nothing has been done in response to this plea. Not only has there been no clarification on the disappearance of journalist Alfredo Jiménez Mota of the Hermosillo newspaper El Imparcial, which was what led to our joint-project with editors -- but many other crimes against media and individual journalists  have gone unsolved in the northern region of Mexico – by far the most devastated in the country.”


The IAPA will go into the plight of the press in Mexico in depth during its upcoming Midyear Meeting in Caracas, Venezuela, March 28-30.


The IAPA officers also expressed great concern at other acts of violence perpetrated in Mexico in January: Octavio Soto Torres, Voces de Veracruz newspaper, was shot at by masked gunmen on January 23; Edi Darinel López Zacarias, a reporter for a number of local newspapers in Chiapas, was beaten up and threatened on January 22 by supporters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI); reporter Luis Ignacio Velásquez and photographer Mario Jiménez Leyva, of the Oaxaca newspaper Noticias, were threatened on January 16 by a group of students, and reporter Efraín Núñez Calderón and photographer Ulises Ruiz Basurto, of the Puebla newspaper Cambio, were attacked on January 9 by people linked to the state government.


In Mexico, 2007 murders were: Gerardo Israel García Pimentel, in Uruapan, Michoacán, on December 8; Saúl Martínez Ortega, in Agua Prieta, Sonora, on April 23, and Amado Ramírez, in Acapulco, Guerrero, on April 6, as well as Mateo Cortés Martínez, Agustín López and Flor Vásquez López, newsvendors of El Imparcial del Istmo, in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, killed on October 8.


Kidnapped that year were Juan Pablo Solís, Zitácuaro, in Michoacán, on December 7; Gamaliel López and Gerardo Paredes, in Monterrey, Nuevo León, on May 10, and Rodolfo Rincón Taracena, in Villahermosa, Tabasco, on January 20.