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Mexico29 September 2005

Open letter to Oaxaca state governor about paralysed daily newspaper

Reporters Without Borders today addressed an open letter to the governor of the southern state of Oaxaca about a so-called strike by the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC), a union linked to the governor’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has prevented the Noticias de Oaxaca daily newspaper from operating since 17 June.

After being kept inside the newspaper’s offices for a month by pickets and barricades, Noticias de Oaxaca’s staff was forcibly driven out by CROC members on 18 July and has not had access to the building since then.

According to a report by the National Centre for Social Communication (CENCOS), many of the newspaper’s journalists have been threatened and insulted on more than one occasion, and several have been offered money by local officials to “change sides.”

The report also said that the newspaper’s bank accounts were frozen on 12 September in a move which, according to CENCOS lawyer David Peña, directly threatens its survival.

The text of the Reporters Without Borders open letter to Governor Ulíses Ruiz Ortiz follows:

“Dear Governor,

Reporters Without Borders, an international organisation that defends press freedom, would like to voice its concern to you about the plight of the Noticias de Oaxaca daily newspaper, which has been paralysed for the past three months by a so-called strike by the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants.

In a letter on 28 June, we asked you to take the necessary measures as soon as possible to enable Noticias de Oaxaca to resume operating normally. However, we have seen that a clear lack of political will has only resulted in the newspaper’s plight becoming more critical.

We therefore reiterate our request to you, urging you in particular to ensure that the local Commission for Conciliation and Arbitration very quickly issues an objective ruling on the legality of the strike that has been the source of the problem. We remind you that the commission was legally obliged to do this within five days, and that it has now been considering the issue for more than 90 days. It was much more prompt in deciding this month to freeze the newspaper’s bank accounts.

We would also like to see measures taken to guarantee the physical safety and psychological well-being of the newspaper’s staff members, several of whom have often been threatened and insulted by members of your local government and locally-elected officials.

We finally remind you that, whatever the links that may exist between the Institutional Revolutionary Party, to which you belong, and the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants, it is your duty as governor to guarantee press freedom in the state of Oaxaca.

We trust you will give this letter your careful consideration and we look forward to a prompt solution to Noticias de Oaxaca’s problems.”

The letter is signed by Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard.

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