Reporters Without Borders has condemned harassment of the local press in Mexico after publications were censored and journalists spied on in the second half of January in Sonora state in the north-west, Guanajuato, in the centre and Puebla in the south.
The worldwide press freedom organisation noted that the abuse of power was the work of local authorities already hand in glove with the justice system over press cases.
“Aides to Sonora state governor, Eduardo Bours, were recently suspected of involvement in the disappearance of a journalist in 2005 (see release of 23 January 2007). The governor of Puebla State, Mario Marín, is no stranger to the case of the unfair arrest of freelance journalist Lydia Cacho, also in 2005. These new cases confirm the complete contempt which some local leaders have for the press,” said Reporters Without Borders.
“In the absence of any reaction from the federal government which promised to guarantee freedom of expression, these violations provide further support for impunity,” it added.
Police in Hermosillo, Sonora State on 18 January 2007 halted a distribution truck for the twice-monthly Contralínea, and seized 2,500 copies from inside the vehicle. Police officers who claimed the truck was stolen pretended to seize two packets of cocaine in order to arrest distribution manager Mauricio Capdevielle and the driver. The two men were released on 21 January.
The magazine’s editor Alvaro Cepeda Neri, told Reporters Without Borders that during the arrest the police officers made threats against Capdevielle, the magazine’s publisher Miguel Badillo and himself, adding that Bours was personally responsible for this confrontation. The magazine carried an article about the plundering of land belonging to Yaquis Indians in which the governor was implicated. The case has been referred to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and the special federal prosecutor’s office for journalists.
Journalist on the daily Correo à Celaya, in Guanajuato state, Pedro Moreno has told Reporters Without Borders that René Mondragón Barragan, personal secretary to the mayor, Gerardo Hernández Gutiérrez, was collecting data on local reporters. Sources in the National Action Party (PAN) of which the president, Felipe Calderón and the mayor of Celaya are members, told the journalist that the files contained information about their private lives (family, homes, sexual orientation) and their likely sources of information. A journalist was reportedly paid 80,000 pesos (about 5,500 euros) to provide the information. Freelance photographer Luis García confirmed that he had seen his own file, which referred to his personal relationship with a colleague.
On 15 January, a journalist with the daily AM de Celaya was expelled from a press conference on the orders of the mayor, who accused him of being “negative” towards the municipality. Two days later, journalists on the daily Correo and on Radio Corporativo Celaya were prevented from entering public buildings by the head of the municipal police, Prisciliano Mandujano. All these cases were referred to the human rights prosecutor on 17 January.
On the same day, Martha Laris, head of the science and communications department of the Americas University in Cholula, Puebla state, had the editorial team on the university weekly La Catarina thrown out of its offices and its equipment and files confiscated. In October the previous year, the weekly had criticised collusion between the university rector and the state governor, Mario Marín, of whom they published cartoons.