During the last six months there were a number of serious attacks on journalists, which represent a step backwards for freedom of the press and speech in Mexico. Particularly heinous were the murders of the journalists, Roberto Javier Mora García, editorial director of El Mañana of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, stabbed to death last March 19; Francisco Ortiz Franco, publisher of the newsweekly Zeta in Tijuana, Baja California, gunned down in his car on June 22, and Francisco Arratia Saldierna, a columnist for a number of newspapers also in Tamaulipas, who was tortured and killed on September 1. The IAPA requested that President Vicente Fox intercede to shed light on these and the killings of 13 journalists along Mexico's northern border during the last 10 years. The majority of these killings have gone unpunished. The killing of Francisco Ortiz Franco is particularly odious. At the midyear meeting held at Los Cabos, Mexico, the IAPA in concert with the Mexican government and officials in Baja California reached an agreement to review two cases of unpunished murders of journalists: that of Héctor Félix Miranda, in April 1988, and Víctor Manuel Oropeza, killed in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, in July 1991. Pursuant to this agreement, a task force established by the IAPA and the governments of Mexico and Baja California met in Tijuana on April 23, to initiate the review of the Félix Miranda case. There are two perpetrators serving prison sentences, but the IAPA insists that there is evidence of other persons behind the murder. Based on his qualifications as a journalist, publisher and attorney, Ortiz Franco was invited by the editor of the weekly newspaper Zeta, Jesús Blancornelas, to join the task force. On May 13, the task force began its work in the offices of the state prosecutor, and subsequently issued a report to the IAPA containing possible leads which might enable the criminal investigation to be reopened. In response to persistent requests by the IAPA, the Mexican government decided to pursue the investigation into the murder of Ortiz Franco at a federal level. An initial report by the government indicated that the Arellano Félix drug cartel was behind Ortiz Franco's killing. Subsequently, five suspects in the killing were arrested including former police officer Alejandro Manuel Gómez Ruvalcaba. He stated that the murder had been ordered by a cartel lieutenant known as “El Cris” because Ortiz Franco had revealed the identity of suspected members of the Arellano Félix cartel. In the early morning on March 19, the journalist Roberto Javier Mora García was stopped outside his home in Nuevo Laredo and stabbed to death. State authorities blamed the murder on a gay couple living in the same apartment building. However, no relationship whatsoever was established between the couple and the victim. Both suspects were held in a local jail, where the accused murderer —Mario Medina, a U.S. citizen— was stabbed to death on May 13 during an alleged brawl with other prisoners. Representatives of the United States government delivered a protest letter in the opinion that Medina had been tortured in order to extract a guilty confession. Tamaulipas journalists protested through multiple actions what they considered to be a sham police investigation. State authorities reported that in the early morning on August 31, Francisco Arratia Saldierna was left for dead in front of the Red Cross hospital in Matamoros, Tamaulipas. Saldierna died as a result of injuries caused by his kidnapping and torture in the early hours of September 1. Arratia was the author of the column “Portavoz” carried on the Internet and in a number of local newspapers. He was also the owner of a used car agency. The Office of the Attorney General took over the case, and on October 12 reported that Raúl Castelán Cruz had been arraigned before a federal judge, after confessing to the kidnapping and torture which caused the death of Arratia. Castelán Cruz was identified as a gunman for the regional drug trafficking cartel known as the "Gulf Cartel." Neither the exact motive for the murder nor the figures behind it have been established. The media association in Mexico has protested these murders. Journalists from 19 states sent protests to Tamaulipas Governor Tomás Yarrington demanding greater commitment to clear up these and other unsolved murders. On October 11, journalists held simultaneous rallies across Mexico with the support of U.S. colleagues in bordering states. The executive branch has sent a bill to the Mexican Congress to enable the Attorney General to assume control of all investigations into cases involving serious violations of human rights or personal freedoms, including the murder of journalists where it appears that the acts were related to their professional work. The proposed amendment caps off a series of IAPA initiatives over the years designed to fight impunity. A bill introduced by the mayor's office is pending approval by the Mexico City legislature. It seeks to strike the offenses of libel and defamation by journalists from the local Penal Code, moving them to civil jurisdiction, as has been requested by the IAPA. Unfortunately, other states such as Chiapas and Aguascalientes have refused to repeal recently enacted amendments to the penal code that stiffen the laws governing journalistic activities. The Mexican Senate suspended debate on a bill to establish a law protecting the confidentiality of journalists' sources. In contrast, a number of bills promoting legislation to protect the confidentiality of journalists' sources have been introduced at the state level, such as in Morelos and Sinaloa. Currently, the principal cause of the backlog in freedom of information legislation is the reluctance of the legislative and judicial branches to permit greater accessibility. Nearly half the states of Mexico have no freedom of information laws. Following is a list of the more relevant attacks against freedoms. - On April 26, the Jalisco State Supreme Court issued a sentence in the case involving the December 1988 murder of U.S. journalist Phillip True. The court sentenced two indigenous men, Juan Chivarra and Miguel Hernández, to 20 years in prison for the crime. They had been held in custody for the murder since December 26, 1988. However, on August 2001 they were found not guilty and released. This was appealed by the True family attorneys, which led the State Court to take jurisdiction. Chivarra and Hernández remain at large despite the five-month old sentence and subsequent arrest warrant. The family of the journalist Leodegario Aguilera Lucas, editor of the magazine Mundo Político published in Acapulco, Guerrero, reported Aguilera’s disappearance on May 23. The police reported on September 9 that they had found a badly burned body, which they said was Aguilera's. They arrested three suspects who they said confessed to murdering him over a land dispute. However they subsequently denied this before a judge. Aguilera's sister, Ernestina Aguilera Lucas, denies that the remains are those of her brother and continues to plead for his safe return. To date the remains have not been forensically identified. Management of Frontera, a daily newspaper published in Tijuana, Baja California, reported that on September 9 and 11, the main door and two windows of the building were damaged by unknown assailants, apparently using firearms. In addition to the June 7 incidents, unidentified persons left a vehicle with 800 kilos of marihuana in the newspaper parking lot. On September 21 the IAPA issued a communiqué condemning the incidents. An October 6 story in La Crónica de Hoy a newspaper published in Mexico City, reported that its website was the target of an Internet attack that temporarily shut it down. According to the paper, the incident followed unfavorable coverage of the Mexico City mayor, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador. The paper's management announced that they would bring a criminal suit against whoever turned out to be the perpetrator. Management at the Chiapas newspaper Cuarto Poder reported that the administration of Governor Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía has waged a campaign of harassment against the newspaper. This has included court actions threatening seizure of the newspaper facilities containing the presses. Complaints by journalists have continued in light of the recent amendment imposing harsher penalties for libel in that state. On October 4, Felipe Sánchez Jiménez, a reporter for the Mexico City daily, Excélsior, in Oaxaca, and an op-ed columnist with El Imparcial, a local newspaper, reported to the IAPA that one of his businesses used to distribute national newspapers has been the object of harassment by competitors. According to his report, the perpetrators were encouraged by political groups presumably affected by his reporting work.