08 June 2011
IAPA asks Mexican authorities to show more political will to end impunity
Miami.-The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today called on Mexicos federal and state governments to employ stronger political and legal will to deal with several incidents that have occurred in the states of Baja California, Coahuila and Veracruz involving the murder of journalists. The organization said it is urgent to end to the high degree of impunity that prevails in the country that is deteriorating press freedom and free speech.
Miami.-The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today called on Mexicos federal and state governments to employ stronger political and legal will to deal with several incidents that have occurred in the states of Baja California, Coahuila and Veracruz involving the murder of journalists. The organization said it is urgent to end to the high degree of impunity that prevails in the country that is deteriorating press freedom and free speech. The IAPA considers the imprisonment of Jorge Hank Rhon, although for a crime not related to press freedom issues, raises the possibility of fulfillment by President Felipe Calderón, the Baja California state government, the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Affairs Ministry with the pledges made to the organization to act on the resolution issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regarding the 1988 murder of Héctor Gato Félix Miranda, joint editor of the weekly newspaper Zeta. The IAPA consideration is based on a review of the case file demonstrating, as the IAPA at the time made state and federal authorities aware, that there are indications of the possible participation of more people in the columnists murder, as masterminds, and Hank Rhon would be one of the main suspects. The IAPA in 1997 submitted the Félix Miranda case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which issued a series of recommendations to be complied with by the Mexican government, among them a serious, full, exhaustive and impartial investigation to be carried out to determine the criminal responsibility of all those involved the murder. A working group made up of IAPA officers and Jesús Blancornelas and Francisco Otiz Franco, both with Zeta, represented the IAPA in a review of the Félix Miranda case file. Ortiz Franco was himself murdered later that year. The IAPA has insistently demanded justice in the case and pressured the authorities during some10 visits to Mexico by international delegations which called for a review of the evidence that could implicate businessman Hank Rhon, suspected of instigating Félix Mirandas murder. Convicted as the murderers were Antonio Vera Palestina and Victoriano Medina Moreno, Hank Rhons chief bodyguard and bodyguard, respectively. In the most recent mission carried out jointly by the IAPA and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in Mexico in September 2010 President Calderón pledged during his meeting, on a personal basis, to take up the IACHR resolutions. In a dialogue with the IAPA, Zetas current editor, Adela Navarro, thanked the organization for following up the case, adding that gives us hope that it will not remain unpunished. IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, declared, The Mexican authorities have to put forth their best efforts for justice to be done, because otherwise the principles of press freedom, free speech and democracy will deteriorate further. Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz of the Mexico City newspaper El Universal and chairman of the IAPAs Impunity Committee, joined the call for Mexicos federal and state governments to stop other cases of murdered journalists from going unpunished. One case refers to an arrest warrant which, after more than two months, the Saltillo, Coahuila, Criminal Court has failed to issue despite the fact that the case was placed under its jurisdiction in March this year, with the intent to put on trial two of the alleged perpetrators in the murder of journalist Valentín Valdés Espinosa of the Saltillo newspaper Zócalo. Valdés was kidnapped and then killed in January 2010 and no doubts exists that his work as a reporter was the motive for his murder. The IAPA expressed regret that the criminal court has so far failed to issue an order for the two suspects to be brought to trial ¬ Isidro Javier del Río Martínez, a.k.a. La pulga (The flea), and Miguel Ángel Bustos Rodríguez, also known as Ángel Solis Zamora, alias El teniente (The lieutenant), whom the authorities have described as one of the most dangerous members of the local self-styled Zeta gang. Ealy Ortiz urged Coahuila Governor Jorge Torres López to ask the head of the state District Attorneys Office, Jesús Torres Charles, to do the required legal work to ensure that the criminal court has everything required to issue the arrest warrant. The IAPA also called on Mexican Attorney General Marisela Morales to provide all necessary support to the Coahuila District Attorneys Office to deal with the Valdés Espinosa murder case, due to the fact that it involves two dangerous drug traffickers a claim made by that office itself. It also cited the possibility that, out of fear, Coahuila has failed to act as the law requires, and said that if necessary the Attorney General should seek the support of the Armed Forces to provide protection for the court and anyone requesting it. Another case concerns the kidnapping and murder of journalist Noel López Olguín, whose alleged killer was detained by chance through Army intervention. One week has passed and the Veracruz District Attorneys Office has still not asked a federal judge to open the case against the suspect. López Olguín was a stringer for the local weekly newspapers Horizonte and Noticias de Acayucan and the daily paper La Verdad, all in Veracruz. To date neither the Mexican Attorney Generals Office, which has Alejandro Chirino, a.k.a. El Dragón (The Dragon), under custody, nor the state District Attorneys Office have made public the possible reasons for the journalists murder, a fact that raises IAPA concern that the intention may be to implicate just one person for this crime, without investigating in depth the possible complicity of others or the existence of a mastermind. The IAPA has asked the Mexican Attorney Generals Office and the Veracuz District Attorneys Office to work together on an in-depth investigation into the facts of this case. Marroquín and Ealy Ortiz considered that it is time for Mexicos federal government and state governments, as well as the judiciary at both levels, to act in a convincing manner in defense of freedom of expression and with full respect for the law because if they do not, the work of journalists and press freedom and the publics right to information will continue to be at risk. The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. The IAPA Impunity Project is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and has the mission of combating violence against journalists and lessening the impunity surrounding the majority of such crimes. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org; http://www.impunidad.com.