Reporters Without Borders today condemned death threats allegedly made by the muncipal police chief of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, in the southern state of Chiapas, against Concepción Villafuerte, the editor of the local daily La Foja Coleta, and it urged the state authorities to take action.
“We call on Chiapas governor Pablo Salazar to react quickly to protect Villafuerte and we hope he will make this gesture in support of press freedom now after getting ‘gag laws’ passed last year increasing censorship and penalties for defamation in his state,” the organisation said.
In press release circulated anonymously in Tuxtla Gutiérrez on 17 October, local police officers alleged that they were the victims of abuse of authority, corruption and embezzlement by their superiors, above all muncipal police chief Mariano Rosales Zuarth.
The release also alleged that, while inebriated, Rosales ordered Superintendent Deonicio Elevit Nolaesco to get rid of Villafuerte if she continued to write in La Foja Coleta or any other newspaper, telling him to run her over with a car to make it look like an accident. Mention was also made of threats being made against Enoc Gordillo, a journalists who contributes to various news media in the nearby city of San Cristóbal de las Casas.
La Foja Coleta, which is known for exposing alleged irregularities by regional officials, has in recent days been covering the problems of police officers, including extortion within the force, low wages and lack of uniforms, and it ran an open letter on 20 October reproducing the main points of the anonymous release.
Rosales reportedly reacted by filing a complaint against the journalists and police officers responsible for the allegations. The authorities however have said they are unaware of this complaint.
Meanwhile, two representatives of the Chiapas state prosecutor’s office went to Villafuerte’s home to inform her that Rosales is the subject of an investigation.
Villafuerte’s home was already the target of a shooting attack on 22 April 2003. Nine 9 mm bullets were found at the scene afterwards.