57th General Assembly Washington, DC October 12 – 16, 2001 MEXICO Since the last report, organized crime, and especially drug trafficking, have become new threats to press freedom in Mexico. Journalism is still a high-risk job in isolated parts of the country. The region along the border with the United States in particular has been the site of frequent attacks against journalists in recent years. The killings have the characteristics of executions by drug trafficking gangs. There are still several cases of unfinished investigations of murders of journalists where there is clear evidence that they were killed because of their work. For example, authorities of various levels have made little progress in investigations of cases such as the murder of Héctor Félix, a columnist from Tijuana, or the attacks against publishers Benjamín Flores González and Jesús Blancornelas. In addition, there have been delays in the judicial process. This has happened in the case of American journalist Philip True, who was killed in December of 1998 in an Indian region of the west-central state of Jalisco. His alleged attackers, who had been in prison awaiting sentence, were freed in August of 2001, allegedly because evidence had disappeared. The following are the main violations of press freedom in Mexico. On March 24, Saúl Antonio Martínez Gutiérrez, assistant editor of the newspaper El Imparcial in the northern city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, near the U.S. border, was murdered. Martínez Gutiérrez was kidnapped by unknown persons in his pickup truck where his body was found later with four gunshot wounds in the head. The police said he apparently was tortured before he was killed. His father, Gonzalo Martínez Silva, editor of El Imparcial, blamed drug trafficking gangs that had threatened his son for publishing articles against drug traffic to the United States. In April, the former mayor of Mexico City, Rosario Robles Berlanga, filed a criminal complaint against reporter Carolina Pavón and editor Alejandro Junco of the newspaper Reforma, saying she was defamed in an article that said she had direct and personal responsibility for alleged shortfalls worth millions during her administration. On May 2, the Inter American Press Association issued a communiqué calling the complaint a repressive measure that threatened press freedom. Reforma’s complaints were presented to the Public Prosecutor’s Office by legislators from a political party that opposes Robles Berlango in Mexico City. Administrative and criminal investigations definitively absolved Robles. On August 16, Judge José Luis Reyes of Colotlán, Jalisco, in the central-western region of Mexico, ordered the release of the Huichol Indians Juan Chivarra and Miguel Hernández, who were accused of killing True, Mexico correspondent of the San Antonio Express News. His body was found at the bottom of a ravine. True was reporting about the Huichol Indians in that rural region. After an international campaign, Chivarra and Hernández were arrested after confessing to participating in the murder. During the next three years, they were not sentenced despite many demands. During the first half of this year, local groups in Jalisco campaigned for the release of the Huichol prisoners and presented alleged new evidence that had been thrown out earlier as inadmissible. In his decision, Judge Reyes said the Indians had confessed after being tortured and ordered them released because of insufficient evidence. This ruling has been protested from several sectors. Martha True, the wife of the murdered journalist, and Robert Rivard, editor and senior vice president of the San Antonio Express News, traveled to Mexico to follow the case. On August 6, the IAPA issued a communiqué expressing its surprise and concern about this situation and asking for the intervention of the national attorney general, Rafael Macedo de la Concha. In September, the Jalisco state attorney’s office appealed the judge’s decision. It is hoped that within the next weeks there will be a judicial decision that either confirms the order releasing the suspects or orders their re-arrest. In August, the coordinator of the Federal Preventive Police, Gen. Francisco Arellano Noblecía, made statements saying the publishing company of the newspaper El Imparcial of Sonora had received money from drug dealers in 1981 and 1983. He showed copies of two alleged checks with the signature of a well-known drug dealer. This happened after El Imparcial had published in July a report that Arellano Noblecía had organized a violent police operation in 1975 to clear people off lands in an area of Sonora. El Imparcial is published in Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora. Several days later, the editor of El Imparcial, José Santiago Healy Loera, filed a criminal complaint of defamation in federal court. In the next few days the final stage of drafting begins on the bill relating to free access to official information, the meaning and goals of which were explained by President Fox to the IAPA mission that visited him early this year.