MEXICO The killing of a reporter and the government’s designation of state-owned news agency Notimex as the exclusive distributor of public sector advertising rank as the most worrisome matters concerning press freedom over the past six months in Mexico. Another major concern is that previous crimes against journalists will fall into oblivion, like that of the murder of Phillip True, the Mexico correspondent of the San Antonio Express-News. One year after his slaying, there has been no verdict in his case. On March 1, the Interior Ministry designated the government news agency Notimex as the exclusive distributor of federal public sector advertising. This prompted protests over the evident intent to return to a monopoly situation regarding the placement of official advertising. The Mexican Association of Advertising Agencies, the main industry trade organization, called the government decision a setback in communication . The association’s director, Jose Alberto Terán, said the government was going back to past practices and added that only the participation of the private sector generates healthy competition. The Undersecretary for Social Communication at the Interior Ministry, Javier Lozano Alarcón, rejected that Notimex’s handling of advertising was a monopoly, arguing that it is not an obligation to call upon third parties to manage advertising. Concern exists among the media that an official advertising monopoly could be used to award or punish newspapers in violation of the principles of the Declaration of Chapultepec, as in the first place it befalls us to object to operation of presumed news agencies by governments whose aim is to disseminate unadulterated propaganda from the government in power. On March 13 the Reforma group of dailies announced its rejection of advertisements sent by Notimex so as not to “legitimize a commercial practice which compromises the practice of independent journalism.” On another front, attempts to curb press freedom with a gag law have not ended. On February 25, the Mexico City daily Reforma reported that Tlaxcala state authorities drew up guidelines telling officials how to handle interviews with the press. The interior minister of that state, Fabián Pérez Flores, circulated a document telling Tlaxcala state employees not to make statements to the press because the media has confused information with “yellow, ghoulish and destructive” journalism. The document dated January 27 said that should interviews be granted, officials should follow a 10-point guideline. Interviews should be suggested by officials, it added, “only when they can obtain positive results or significant advances for their programs or projects.” On the legal front, the murder of editor Benjamín Flores González of La Prensa in the state of Sonora showed some signs of being resolved following nearly three years of confusion and by the release of the person believed to be behind the July 15, 1997 killing. On February 24, however, the suspected perpetrators of the killings, brothers Gabriel and Ismael Gutiérrez, were arrested in Arizona, the U.S. border state opposite Sonora. The were arrested for several crimes related to drug trafficking as well as the murder of the journalist. The Sonora State Attorney General’s Office has still not requested the extradition of the two suspects to Mexico to stand trial for the killing. If the request is not made soon, then that could mean that the journalist’s killing would go unpunished. A brother of the two suspects was freed last year after being cleared of various charges, including being the person behind the Flores murder. On February 1 in Reynosa, Taumalipas, Luis Roberto Cruz Martínez, a reporter for the local magazine Multicosas, was killed in a stabbing death. The confessed killer was one of his neighbors, Oscar Antonio Jiménez González, alias “El Tony.” After being arrested at the murder site, he escaped on February 10 from the custody of police officer Alfonso Gómez Chávez, who was guarding him after a criminal judge formally ordered the accused murderer formally jailed. Investigations showed the motive for the killing was that the journalist supposedly told authorities that Jiminez González owned a car that had been reported stolen. Multicosas editor-in-chief Hugo Romas said the killer planned the murder as revenge and municipal authorities were involved because after the journalist’s supposed stolen car report to the authorities, the auto in question did not appear as stolen. However after the killer was detained by judicial police, the car was reported as having been stolen in the United States. As of this writing, the killer is a fugitive and police officer Gómez Chávez is occupying the cell which had been earmarked for the accused killer. On January 4, reporter Fernando Barroso of the daily Frontera of the city of Tijuana faced intimidation by four men, one of them armed. The group, traveling aboard a van, pursued the reporter. The gunman pointed his weapon directly at the journalist, shouting for him to stop. While continuing to drive, Barroso bent down and three shots were fired into the air. The journalist was followed to the premises of the newspaper. Baja California state police have been unsuccessful in trying to find the van. On December 8, the daily El Siglo de Torreón and reporter Carlos Ramírez said they had been threatened for having exercised freedom of expression. The premises of the paper were shot at by unknown assailants. In a communiqué, the management of the newspaper demanded that the case be thoroughly investigated to find those responsible Ramírez reported that he and his family were threatened in two telephone calls within 15 days. He accused groups from the ruling PRI party who were working on the campaign of its presidential candidate. He said that columnist Alvaro Cepeda, of the daily México Hoy, had been the target of constant anonymous telephoned threats due to his writing. More than two months after the developments, the authorities have not drawn up a report nor even told those affected about the outline of their investigation and the results so far. On December 19, in Santiago Ixcuintla, Nayarit, La Extra de Nayarit editor Enrique Torres Zamora was arrested by local police. The editor said he was detained on charges of traffic violations, offenses against authority and other reported crimes which he was told were under investigation by prosecutors. However, as of the writing, the editor has not been told what these accusations are. Mariana García, the wife of the journalist, said that when she went to the authorities to learn about the motives for the arrest, the agents on duty prevented her from seeing her husband, and Public Security Director Xocoyootzin Rentería Vega, declined to provide information about the reasons for the detention. In the months prior to his arrest, Torres Zamora’s newspaper had prominently featured as top stories articles critical of the city government. As of the writing, there is still confusion about why he was detained. On October 20 in Mexico City, the journalists of the daily Crónica demanded the local government stop meddling in the internal operations of the newspaper and cease judicial persecution of various reporters. In a letter in the newspaper addressed to the mayor, the employees of the paper demanded that they be allowed to form an association that was most advantageous for their interests. The newspaper reported that the information it received daily from the city government included a call to legally register a union which apparently is constituted by a group of at most nine people who no longer work at the newspaper. According to Crónica, the nine workers who were dismissed from the newspaper formed a new union, which they said had full support from the authorities.