MEXICO The killing of three journalists, the kidnapping of the owner of a newspaper chain, a gunfire attack on a TV commentator and the arrest of a magazine editor seriously affected press freedom. There were also renewed calls for the enactment of a Communication Law, which would limit the scope of activities of the press and journalists based on the premise of placing “limits of excessive power and freedom of the Mexican media.” Two years ago, this proposal, aiming to regulate the conduct of the news media, was rejected by the three main Mexican political parties: the PAN, PRI and PRD. April 9 - Photographer Pablo Pineda Gaucín, of La Opinión in the border town of Matamoros, was pummeled to death, and his body was dumped in Harlingen, Texas, near the international bridge over the Rio Grande. Leonor Solís de Pineda, accompanied by Tamaulipas State Police commander Sergio Puig Canales, identified the body of her husband, which bore signs of torture, sharp blows and a skull fracture caused by a 9mm bullet to the back of the neck. Harlingen police have not ruled out that the 39-year-old photographer could have been kidnapped, tortured and killed in Matamoros, to be left in Texas. They ruled out robbery as a motive for the killing because the body still had a chain and several rings and credentials identifying him as a La Opinión photographer. The case remains open and there are still no known motives for the crime. There have been no arrests. April 28 – In the border town of Ciudad Juárez, the body of reporter José Ramírez Puente of the Radio Net 1490 network was found in the Tierra and Libertad neighborhood. Even though he carried press credentials, State Judicial Police homicide detectives failed to act. Less than 10 hours after the crime, the reporter’s family identified the body and the State Judicial Police then said it “had found 10 kilos of marijuana in the car and the investigation did not fall under their area of responsibility.” The 28-year-old journalist was stabbed more than 35 times with an ice pick, his heart and left ribs punctured. He was found in the front seat of his own car. The journalists’ organization believes that there are serious doubts about the evidence because Ramírez Puente enjoyed a reputation for leading an honest, clean life and being a man dedicated to his family, which was experiencing financial problems. In a May 2 funeral procession to a local church, journalists, politicians and members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) demanded an in-depth investigation of the killing. They called for a special prosecutor to drive forward the probe as well as deepen an investigation into the State Judicial Police detectives who, at the outset, had failed to search the car. On July 19, Hugo Sánchez Eustaquio, publisher of the Zaragoza, Mexico state, newspaper La Verdad de Atizapán, was found shot dead, a bullet lodged in his neck. The body lay alongside his car on Zaragoza avenue in that city. According to initial investigations, Sánchez had been kidnapped three months before and then killed by his abductors. The body was found in the Hacienda del Pedregal neighborhood and so far there has been no reliable, definitive resolution to the case. Another unsolved murder is that of U.S. reporter Phillip True, Mexico correspondent for the daily San Antonio Express-News, who was killed while on a reporting trip in the mountainous region of Jalisco state towards the end of 1996. Murder suspects Juan Chivarra de la Cruz and Miguel Hernández de la Cruz are in a Jalisco jail but nearly four years after the crime there has been no verdict in the case. At the end of May of this year, an IAPA mission led by President Tony Pederson visited Guadalajara, capital of Jalisco, and met the state’s attorney general among other authorities. The attorney general stated that by August the case would be solved. But two months later, the investigation is still in the stage of sifting through the evidence. More than three years after the killing of journalist Benjamín Flores González in San Luis Río Colorado in July 1997, those behind the killing have not been arrested. A gunfire attack on editor Jesús Blancornelas in November 1997 in the border town of Tijuana remains unsolved, and every indication is that the authorities have halted the investigation. June 15. After 10 p.m., Freddy Secundino Sánchez, a contributor to Epoca magazine, was returning home in a taxi when he was kidnapped, tortured, harassed and threatened by people believed to be judicial police officers. According to the complaint brought by Sánchez before the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, the journalist was paying his taxi bill when two persons identifying themselves as judicial police forced him to remain in his taxi. The pair, who ordered the taxi driver to drive around, threatened him with a pistol, hurled insults and beat him on his chest and knees. The abduction lasted two hours, during which the journalist said he was blindfolded and told to bend over and hold on to his ankles. The assailants stole 11,000 pesos (more than 1,100 U.S. dollars) as well as his credit cards, cellular phone and beeper. The assailants repeatedly referred to the alleged harm that the journalist had caused to a third party, apparently a legislator. The journalist was released in another neighborhood of Mexico City with a warning that any report he made to authorities would be met with retaliation. August 2. In the city of Los Mochis, Sinaloa state, Ildefonso Salido Ibarra, the 62-year-old owner of the El Debate newspaper chain, was kidnapped by unidentified abductors at 7 a.m. during his customary morning workout at a sports center. August 5. Ibarra was released after a ransom was paid without the intervention of the authorities. Apparently, economic motives were behind the crime. Nevertheless, the abduction stirred deep concern among journalists because it came one month before presidential elections. April 17. The bodyguards of PRI President Dulce María Sauri Riancho assaulted José Armando Alemán, in Cuernavaca, the capital of the state of Morelos. Alemán was attacked as he tried to photograph Juan Salgado Brito registering to be PRI gubernatorial candidate in Morelos. In the scuffle with the security agents, the photographer lost his equipment. Part of it was seized by the bodyguards and the rest was destroyed. May 18. David Oziel Aguilar, a Spanish photographer from the magazine Quién, complained that a bodyguard for actress Julia Roberts roughed him up when he tried to get too close to the actress. June 7. In the southern city of Campeche, capital of the state of the same name, Senator Layda Sansores Sanromán, burst into a breakfast that journalists were having with local authorities to mark Press Freedom Day. Her interruption, she said, was to present her “alliance for a Campeche which demands unfettered freedom of the press.” She used the occasion, however, to verbally confront a group of correspondents from different news organizations. Then the senator and her followers pounded, pushed and punched the hotel’s aluminum walls, causing damage to the venue of the breakfast. June 22. Lilly Téllez, of TV Azteca’s nightly newscast, was the target of an attack in Mexico City, in which her driver and two bodyguards were wounded by a burst of more than 20 rounds of gunfire on her car. August 15. Gunshots were fired on the office of journalist Ricardo Alemán in a Mexico City building. He was absent at the time of the attack. There was slight damage to the office. September 19. Marco Vinicio Blanco, journalist for La Crónica of Baja California was attacked by two persons when he was driving his car in the city of Mexicali. They sought to stop him with a firearm. May 19. Judicial authorities opened a probe into reporter Melitón García, of the newspaper of El Norte of Monterrey in Nuevo León state, after he used a fake birth certificate to obtain a voter’s registration card different from his actual name. The reporter was doing an investigative report to draw attention irregularities in the Federal Electoral Registry and the voter rolls. August 19. Hours before elections got underway in the state of Chiapas, Governor Roberto Albores Guillén ordered the seizure of copies of the daily La Jornada and other national newspapers. The bundles of these newspapers arrived in the state capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez, as is customary each day, aboard an airplane from Mexico City, but the papers were intercepted and not delivered to their points of sale. This was not the first time La Jornada was censored by the state government. In November 1999, the governor impounded the paper because it carried a report on an alleged effort to depose him from his post. August 11. In Xalapa, capital of Veracruz state, a group of journalists from the area of Martínez de la Torre protested the authoritarian and arrogant attitude of General Javier Herrera Barrera, the local representative of the state’s General Directorate of Public Security. They said that under his orders, police kidnapped Jesús María Lechuga, a correspondent for the daily of La Opinión, in Poza Rica city. August 20. In Mexico City, the offices of the twice-monthly newspaper La Llovizna, headed by photographer Pedro Valtierra Ruvalcaba, was looted. The thieves not only stole computer and photographic equipment worth 35,000 pesos (some 3,500 U.S. dollars), but they also took documents with journalistic and administrative information. September 17. In the city of Zacatecas, capital of the state of the same name, the PAN’s legislative grouping demanded that the radio news program “Vertíce Informativo”, conducted by Jorge Acuña, the former press coordinator for the PRD, be taken off the air because its staff was allegedly linked to the ruling PRD state government. The program, they said, pummeled the opposition and defended Governor Ricardo Monreal Avila. September 19. Antonio Pinedo Cornejo, editor of the magazine Seminario, in Ciudad Juárez, was detained by Chihuahua state judicial police on an arrest warrant issued by Judge Javier Benavides González, who had been the chief of the municipal police until September 22. He sued the journalist after the magazine charged that the former police chief protected drug traffickers and named others allegedly involved. September 20. Antonio Pinedo left a Ciudad Juárez jail after posting a 15,000 peso ( $1,500) bond. He asserted that his detention was an assault not only on him but also on freedom of expression.