A year after the murder of newspaper columnist Francisco Arratia Saldierna on 31 August 2004 in Matamoros (in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas), Reporters Without Borders today drew attention to the continuing impunity in this case and at the time urged the federal government to continue its efforts to give journalists better protection. Arratia wrote for the El Imparcial, El Regional, Mercurio and El Cinco newspapers.
"The arrest of Arratia’s presumed killer, Raúl Castelán, on 24 September 2004 was not followed by any significant progress in the case and, although Castelán admitted being involved, he has never been charged with this murder," the press freedom organisation said.
"We welcomed the recent statements by the federal authorities in support of press freedom, but we would like to see concrete results, especially from the investigations into the murders of journalists," Reporters Without Borders added.
President Vicente Fox and his government have recently shown renewed interest in journalists’ problems. On 29 August, Fox met Inter-American Press Association president Alejandro Miró Quesada, who talked about legislative needs and the need to punish crimes against journalists.
At this meeting, Miró was promised government support for a bill to make attacks on journalists federal crimes, meaning they would have to be investigated by the federal authorities, who are better equipped and less susceptible to pressure from local authorities. It would also abolish any time limitation on the punishment of such crimes and would establish heavier sentences.
Miguel Ángel Meneses Maciel, a former senior official in the department of prosecutions, was meanwhile named on 25 August as special prosecutor for crimes against journalists. He will be attached to the federal prosecutor’s office.
As well as the Arratia case, Reporters Without Borders hopes all these measures will help produce results in the cases of Francisco Javier Ortiz Franco of the weekly Zeta, killed on 22 June 2004 in Tijuana, Raúl Gibb Guerrero of the regional daily La Opinión, killed on 8 April 2005 in Veracruz state, and Dolores Guadalupe García Escamilla, killed on 5 April 2005 in Nuevo Laredo.