25 March 2014
Despite the arrival of a new government, optimism for a different security strategy and installation of a System for Protection of Journalists and Human Rights Defenders there were setbacks regarding press freedom due to an increase in attacks on journalists and the crisis within the System itself. In October the country was harshly criticized during the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, for the attacks on journalists. Of 89 countries at least 50 expressed concern at the attacks on journalists, the lack of punishment and the shortcomings of the System of Protection. The United States, Britain and France called for that mechanism to be strengthened and impunity eradicated. In the forum Lía Limón, Under Secretary for Human Rights of the Mexican Interior Ministry, said that there had been initiated 458 prior inquiries into offenses against freedom of expression, 374 were resolved and 172 precautionary measures were granted, but without disclosing the number of cases solved or sentences pronounced. She also spoke of the mechanism, and of the13 million pesos ready to be applied, including in 2014. On returning to the country the Mexican delegation minimized the call to attention of the 30 countries and described the international review as satisfactory. On March 24 the mechanism’s civil councilors withdrew from the session of the government cabinet headed by Interior Ministry Under Secretary Lía Limón, saying that the conditions did not exist for its functioning. The System’s shortcomings had also been pointed out in a diagnosis by civil society organizations, there being criticized the lack of suitable staff and financial resources for its operation. According to what they disseminated in February this year the mechanism had received 152 requests for aid for journalists and human rights defenders, 22 of them were not accepted, 89 remained pending and 41 were reviewed and discussed. More than 70% of the requests were not attended to. The same councilors who left the mechanism table pointed out structural shortcomings due to lack of a long-term work program. According to Article 19 in 2013 there were documented 330 cases of attacks on journalists. But what is more regrettable is that six of each 10 attacks were carried out by public officials. In addition, 38 news media had their installations attacked. The most representative anti-press freedom cases in this period: On December 1, during coverage of a protest outside the Televisa offices a group of riot police officers violently detained Alejandra Natalia Rodríguez of the “Somo el Medio” portal. La Jornada reporter Tania Maldonado who was recording the arrest was beaten with a truncheon and her cell phone was seized. That same day also attacked was news photographer Víctor Hugo Torres of the Izquierda Mexicana portal. On December 15 when journalists Hernán Villareal Cruz of Diario Presencia in Las Choapas, Veracruz, was detained and tortured for one hour by a group of members of organized crime. On December 17 Ismael García Morales, who works at the newspaper Noticias de Oaxaca, was beaten up inside the legislative chamber by supporters of a local PRI party member of Congress. On December 19 Reforma newspaper photographer Jorge Luis Plata and reporters Luis Cruz of the newspaper El Imparcial of Oaxaca and Jorge Morales, correspondent of Televisa television, were beaten by Oaxaca State Police officers during a police clash with demonstrators. On December 20, also in Veracruz, reporter Miguel Ángel Roblero Monzón with the newspaper El Liberal was unlawfully detained by a group of Navy police officers who first threatened then and scared him for having taken photos of the patios of the former Palma Sola Prison in Coatzacoalcos, and then damaged his equipment. On December 21 the home of journalist Anabel Hernández was raided by a group of armed soldiers. On not finding the author of the book “Los Señores del Narco” (The Drug Men) two people were detained, one of them the bodyguard the government has assigned to her. He was later released. Hernández filed a formal complaint with the Mexican Attorney General’s Office’s Special Prosecutor’s Office for Dealing With Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression. But to date there has been no investigation. On January 1, during the taking of office of the mayor of San Miguel Soyatepec in Oaxaca, El Tuztepecano newspaper reporters Antonio Mundaca, Eduardo Jiménez Sandoval, Víctor López and José de Jesús Alcantara were stoned and beaten with machetes by members of the Popular Unity Party who prevented them from covering the event. The state government of Chihuahua has still not paid a debt that the president and editor of the local newspaper El Pueblo, Ildefonso Chávez, is owed for official advertising. During a mission of the Mexican Newspaper Editors and Publishers Association (AME) in January a meeting was held with Governor César Duarte and state government representatives, to whom was delivered documentation on the agreement. The Governor agreed to pay the debt. Chávez had on December 2 begun a hunger strike that ended 42 days later in the square in front of the Governor’s office to call for payment of a debt and to protest at being discriminated against with the cancellation of state government official advertising, which he attributes to reprisals for his critical editorial stance. He also complained of cyber attacks on his Web site, a campaign to discredit him and threats that led to his family temporarily leaving the country. On January 23 there was the first murder of a journalist in 2014. Miguel Ángel Guzmán Garduño, a columnist with the newspaper Vértice in Guerrero state, was beaten to death at his home in Chilpancingo. While the authorities declared the possible motive to have been robbery the Human Rights Commission headed by Raúl Plasencia did not rule out that it was linked to his work as a journalist, so an investigation in this regard was ordered. There followed the murder of Gregorio Jiménez, a reporter with the newspapers Notisur and Liberal del Sur in the municipality of Las Choapas in Veracruz, who on February 11 was found dead in a clandestine grave after having disappeared on February 5. He had already been threatened by the female owner of a bar in October 2013 for having reported that in that bar the murder had taken place of two migrants abducted by organized crime groups. The investigation led to the arrest of the bar owner and three other people as perpetrators and masterminds of the murder. On March 2 three journalists with Noroeste in Culiacán and Guamúchil, Sinaloa state, were beaten by police during coverage of marches in support of “Chapo” Guzmán. Héctor Parra Zurita was detained when he approached to take photos of police firing into the air. He said that his photographic equipment was seized. On March 16 a raid was carried out on the home of Darío Ramírez, director of the Artículo 19 association, his work documents, computer and objects of value being confiscated. The event took place a few days before presenting the association’s report on the situation of the press in the country. On April 3 the managing director of the Grupo Editorial Noroeste group, Adrián López Ortiz, was shot at on an avenue in the Sinaloa state capital. After being forced to hand over his car, computer, cell phone and wallet, and when the assailants were about to flee, they came back to shoot at his legs, it being believed that this was an attempt to intimidate him. He is now out of danger. This attack joins a series of them that journalists in Noroeste have been suffering in recent years and which have increased in recent months.