Report to the Midyear Meeting

Panama, Panama

March 6 – 9, 2015

The murder of two journalists within a framework of violence against the press, attacks on news media and impunity in cases of crimes committed in previous periods represent the biggest attack on press freedom in these last six months.

Neither the various prosecutors' offices created in the states nor the Special Prosecutor's Office at the federal level are giving results, even less the Mechanism for the Defense of Journalists which so far is continuing not to give a satisfactory report about progress in protection of reporters and the use of its resources.

Added to aggressions are physical or legal intimidation, cybernetic attacks, invasion of media Web sites, defamations via electronic means and anonymously, hacking on social media, intimidations through messages and even the theft of information.

Increasingly those interested in restricting freedom of expression are having recourse to cyberspace to hide their faces, using all the technological tools possible to attack media.

Into this area there have also entered people who join in the work of reporting and have faced the same fate as journalists, as in the case of María del Rosario Fuentes, missing since last October for having made public denouncements of violence on the Facebook account "Valor por Tamaulipas." (Courage for Tamaulipas).

Added to this is the lack of protection of journalists during coverage of news, where officials allow reporters or photographers to be attacked by demonstrators and even the police themselves attack journalists, beating them or detaining them, seizing their cameras or destroying their mobile phones.

Major events in this period:

On October 22 the body of Jesús Antonio Gamboa Urías, editor of the magazine Nueva Prensa in Ahome, Sinaloa, was found after he had been missing since October 10, his disappearance having been reported since the 14th to the Regional Judiciary in Sinaloa. He had denounced problems in the state administration and its health department in dealing with a dengue epidemic.

On October 27 television channels Tv Azteca, 10 and 12 and radio station La Tremenda in the city of Durango remained off the air for five hours due to students of the José Guadalupe Aguilera Rural School blocking access to their installations in protest at the disappearance of 43 fellow students in Ayotzinapa.

In early November a group of six Spanish journalists decided to leave the country after receiving threats to kidnap and extort money from them when they were in Tapachula, Chiapas, taping a documentary on migrants titled "En la Tierra de Nadie" (In No-One's Land).

On November 5 federal agents seized transmitters, antennas and computer equipment of the community radio stations Radio Bola Lari and Estéreo Ranche Gubiña in the town of Unión Hidalgo Oaxaca. They also did so in Santo Domingo Zanatxepec from Radio Más 107.1 and Sonito 106 and the following day in Juchitán, from community radio station Órbita Digital.

The operations were made under the new Telecommunications and Radio Broadcast Law which allows the confiscation of equipment of radio stations that broadcast without license from the Federal Telecommunications Commission (Cofetel).

On November 11 Carlos Navarrete Romero, a reporter with the newspaper El Sur, Sebastián Luna, a photographer with Vértice, Anwar Delgado Ramírez, a photographer with El Universal, Rosario García of El Financiero, José Antonio Belmont and Alejandro Cardona of Milenio, and Jesús Eduardo Guerrero Ramírez, photographer with La Jornada of Guerrero were attacked by anti-mutiny state police agents while they were covering demonstrations by teachers belonging to the Guerrero State Education Workers Coordinating Body (CETEG) in Chilpancingo.

The Mexico City online newspaper Sin Embargo suffered a new cybernetic attack that prevented users' access to its Web site throughout one day. It was the second online attack in a month.

On November 13 the newspaper Presencia in the town of Las Choapas, Veracruz, reported that two men attempted to break into its offices by force, but the security guard repelled them with his weapon and managed to throw them out, although they threatened to return. Presencia received online messages on social media in which five journalists were accused of having links with organized crime and were given death threats.

Five days later the news Web site Puebla e-consulta also reported suffering sabotage of it, damaging its database and preventing access by users. The online attack was blamed on the Puebla state government.

In December Verónica Galicia, belonging to a radio station in the Federal District, was attacked by two police officers dressed as civilians who attempted to prevent her from covering a protest on the first day of the month on Paseo de Reforma street. The officers beat her and her companions Erick García and Eduardo Celestino.

On January 2 a group of armed people aboard three pick-up trucks kidnapped Moisés Sánchez, a reporter with the weekly La Unión in Medellín, a town neighboring Veracruz. On January 25, after denunciation and several acts of protest by fellow reporters, the Veracruz Public Prosecutor's Office reported the finding of the body of the reporter, who had published information about criminal gangs operating in the Tejar district of Medellín de Bravo.

Another unlawful arrest was carried out on January 7, of César Hernández Paredes, editor of the news Web site Revolución 3.0, and Gustavo Aguado, of the sister company in Michoacán, when farmers from the Federal District obstructed the work of the journalists as they were covering a demonstration in front of the Mexican Attorney General's Office. The two were beaten and then jailed, to then be released without any public apology.

On January 26 reporters with the newspaper El Debate reported that officers of the Mexican Navy threatened several reporters covering operations in Guasave, Sinaloa. The officers pointed their weapons and asked them to leave the place under threat of being arrested.

In Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, that same day Alberto Méndez Cruz, a photographer with the newspaper Rotativo Tribuna de Oaxaca, and Rolando Jiménez López, a photographer for the Web site Paralelo20 Radio y TV, were beaten by residents of San Baltazar Chichicápam.

On January 29 unidentified men hurled explosives at the front of the building of the Veracruz newspaper El Heraldo de Córdoba.

Only February 1 Verónica Rocío Huerta Aburto, a reporter with AVC Noticias in Veracruz, reported receiving death threats in text messages on her mobile phone, saying that after the murder of reporter Moisés Sánchez she would be the one to follow. She filed a formal report with the Special Prosecutor's Office for Dealing with Crimes Against Journalists. She is still awaiting for protective action.

Three days later Enrique Juárez, editor of the newspaper El Mañana in Matamoros, was dragged out of his office by force and shoved into a vehicle. He was beaten and threatened by armed men. The message was that he should stop publishing news about violence in Tamaulipas.

On February 5 the organization Artículo 19 reported that its Web sites for the defense of journalists Cobertura Segura, Derecho a la Verdad and Obervatorio FEADLE were attacked, being replaced by "mirror" sites, that is to say ones in response to them, so they remained offline for several days.

Photographer Daniel García with El Heraldo of Chihuahua was prevented from doing his work and then detained by the State Police when he was taking pictures at the place where a murder had been committed. The police handcuffed him, arguing that they were protecting the crime scene, which was not taped off. He was freed 20 minutes later.

On February 6 the offices of Televisa in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, had a grenade tossed at them from a moving vehicle by people who have not been identified. Two security guards were injured. This was the fifth occasion that this building had been attacked, the first time being in 2010, then three more times between March and October 2012.

On February 7 Morelos state police beat reporters Pedro Oseguera, Fely Carnalla of TV Azteca-Morelos, Máximo Cerdio of the weekly Conurbados and Pedro Tonantzin Sánchez, correspondent of Excélsior and Cadena 3 television who were covering a demonstration by storekeepers in downtown Cuernavaca.

Also that day there began attacks on the newspaper Reforma in Mexico City. First was the arrest of a female reporter and a photographer who refused to hand over their equipment after having taken photos of Naucalpan Police patrols. Eight police officers hauled them before a judge but another judge determined that there was no wrongdoing and set them free.

On February 8, when Daniel Orozco, a reporter with the newspaper La Red de Coatzacoalcos in Veracruz reported an attempt at kidnapping him, which occurred after receiving intimidating messages on his cell phone, just days after he covered the finding of clandestine graves in that city. He filed a formal report with the State Deputy Public Prosecutor's Office. It is not known if he has yet received protective action.

On February 10 journalist Lydia Cacho reported on a campaign to discredit her on social media, where she was accused from various sources of receiving money from governments of the PRD party. She accused the governor of Quintana Roo.

On February 15 a distribution truck of the newspaper Reforma was shot at in Tlalnepantla, Mexico state, with a salesman receiving a head wound. This occurred after a series of investigations by the newspaper into use of municipal patrols in Naucalpan and Tlalnepantla without official license plates and possible cloning.