08 May 2008

Disappearance and assaults on Mexican journalists raise concern


Disappearance and assaults on Mexican journalists raise concern


Miami (May 8, 2008).—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today voiced concern and alarm at the disappearance of a reporter in Mexico City, Mexico, and assaults on three others in Sinaloa, among other incidents, which it said demonstrate just how unsafe it is to be a journalist in that country.


The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, issued a public call on Mexican authorities to conduct “a prompt investigation into the incidents to bring an end to the wave of violence against news media and individual journalists that is making Mexico one of the most dangerous countries to carry out the press’ role.”


Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, was referring to the disappearance a week ago of Televisa television reporter Jorge Carrasco Taracena. The Mexico City-based channel reported on May 6 that Carrasco Taracena’s whereabouts were unknown since he went missing on April 29. He covered the night beat, reporting on traffic accidents and the underworld.


Taracena had few relatives in or near the Mexican capital so his disappearance went unreported until colleagues noticed he was missing. It was not immediately known if he had received any threats.


Federal Police attack reporters in Sinaloa


In another violent incident three reporters and the offices of the newspaper El Debate in Culiacán in the northwestern state of Sinaloa were attacked on May 6 by Federal Police officers. That afternoon chief photographer Leo Espinoza and reporters Torivio Bueno and Geovanny Elizalde were covering a police operation a few blocks from the newspaper when police officers shouted at them in anger and beat them. Espinoza was arrested, threatened, beaten and held at gunpoint by loaded rifles.


After his release 10 minutes later Espinoza resumed taking photos, infuriating the police officers who then chased him to the newspaper’s offices where the security guard managed to lock the door before the policemen could get in. They shouted threats and besieged the building for 45 minutes, moving off only when other news media arrived at the scene.


Reporters Bueno and Elizalde complained to the police officers, who began to shout abuse at them. Bueno was arrested, handcuffed and ordered to get into a patrol car, where he was beaten and threatened for 10 minutes before being set free.


According to local news media the Federal Public Security Minister has ordered an investigation into the actions of 17 Federal Police officers who are the alleged responsible for the attacks on the newspaper staff.


Soldiers break into journalist’s home


Meanwhile, in the northern state of Chihuahua the Diario de Juárez newspaper in Ciudad Juárez reported that around 50 soldiers burst into the home of the paper’s correspondent, Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, in Ascensión during the early hours of May 6. The reasons for the raid were under investigation.


Marroquín announced that as part of a strategy to help reduce the incidence of violence being unleashed against journalists the IAPA is to hold a forum of editors and publishers, lawmakers and judges in June to discuss issues concerning impunity and the need for the government to take steps to ensure freedom of the press.