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Mexico15 February 2006

Suspected plot revealed against journalist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro

Reporters Without Borders is disturbed by the revelation of a plot apparently targeting Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, a freelance journalist and contributor to the daily La Voz del Caribe in Cancún, eastern Mexico.

Recordings of compromising telephone conversations between textile magnate, José Camel Nacif, and political figures, were published by the press on 14 February 2006. Some extracts from these discussions show a desire to silence the journalist and influence a “defamation” case against her, the press freedom organisation said.

“If they are confirmed, these conversations show the intention to destroy the career and reputation of Lydia Cacho Ribeiro”, it said. “We call on the judicial authorities of Quintana Roo province in eastern Mexico responsible for investigating and trying Lydia Cacho for defamation in a case brought by José Camel Nacif, to be extremely vigilant in the face of political pressure that is being applied to this case.”

“We also urge that these recordings be authenticated as quickly as possible and that, if necessary, an investigation is opened into the political figures involved,” it added.

The daily La Jornada and W Radio on 14 February published and broadcast the contents of 12 telephone recordings delivered to the two media by an anonymous messenger.

The series of recordings are of several phone conversations in which José Camel Nacif, speaks in turn to the governor of Puebla in central Mexico, Mario Marín, and Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía of Chiapas in the south; to other textile bosses, including “Hubert”, a French national; Luis Angel Casas, financial co-ordinator of Mario Marin’s election campaign; Lebanese compatriot, Hanna Nakad Bayeh, known as “Juanito”; and with a journalist on a national daily and radio, with the first name Andrés or “Muñeco”.

These recordings, of which Reporters Without Borders has received a copy of the transcripts, show a clear and concerted intention to bring down Lydia Cacho Ribeiro. The journalist is being sued for libel by José Camel Nacif, after she referred to his alleged involvement in a paedophile ring in her 2004 book The Demons of Eden.

According to the recordings, José Camel Nacif had apparently struck a deal with the authorities in Puebla state where the libel case was first lodged, for Lydia Cacho to be imprisoned. She was detained there in December 2005 for 24 hours .

The discussions are often very insulting, even obscene and one of them turns out to be threatening. José Camel Nacif raises the question of the journalist’s conditions of detention and says he hopes she will be sexually abused in prison.

In these same recordings, he also raised the impact her trial could have on that of Jean Succar Kuri, a Lebanese friend, currently imprisoned in the United States for his alleged involvement in the paedophile network the journalist exposed.

Valentin Meneses, spokesman for the governor, Mario Marín, refused to confirm if one of the voices on the recording was that of the governor. During an interview given to W Radio, Meneses said that the recordings violated the laws on protection of private life and said Marín had nothing to do with the case.

The broadcasting of the recordings provoked an outcry in Mexico. Felipe Calderón, a member of the National Action Party (PAN) of head of state Vicente Fox and a candidate for the presidential elections of 2 July 2006, has called for an investigation to be opened.

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