17 February 1998



MIAMI, Florida (Feb. 18)–The Inter American Press Association (IAPA), through its Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, today expressed its great concern at the murder of a journalist in Mexico, the sentencing of an independent reporter in Cuba to a year’s community service and death threats issued to newsmen in Brazil.

Luis Mario García, a reporter for the Mexico City, Mexico, afternoon paper Diario de la Tarde, was shot and killed as he was getting into his automobile. A woman he was chatting to at the time was slightly injured when a bullet struck her in the arm.

Newspaper colleagues said García had told them some days earlier that he was being followed by unidentified people after reporting on alleged police corruption.

Danilo Arbilla, chairman of the IAPA’s Press Freedom Committee, said that "sadly, taking lives continues being a means of silencing the press." Arbilla, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, news magazine Búsqueda, stressed "the need to keep up our guard and not allow those who resort to violence to diminish human rights, press freedom and people’s free speech." He called on the Mexican authorities to open an immediate investigation into the murder.

In Cuba, Juan Carlos Recio Martínez, correspondent of the independent news agency Cuba Press in Villa Clara province, was sentenced on February 16 to a year of community service on charges of "dissemination of enemy propaganda" and other breaches of state security. He had been arrested last September 13, held under house arrest and barred from reporting.

Meanwhile in Brazil, journalists in the northeastern state of Alagoas received death threats after reporting on the activities of a gang of thieves and arms traffickers allegedly made up of policemen.

Arbilla, in a message of protest to Alagoas State Governor Manoel Gomes de Barros, said that "it is clear that these threats are aimed at intimidating newsmen and restricting freedom of the press."

He urged the governor to take all necessary steps for the incidents to be investigated in-depth and the guilty to be brought to justice "and thus guarantee the public’s right to information."

Arbilla said the seriousness of the incidents in both Brazil and Cuba meant they would be taken up at the IAPA’s Midyear Meeting, to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, March 13-17.