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Mexico13 July 2007

Federal government urged to stop press freedom violations by local politicians

Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm today about threats and advertising boycotts against journalists and media during the past few days in the states of Puebla, Guanajuato and Yucatán, which were reported by the Centre for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET). These press freedom violations by local politicians and criminal gangs are typical of the kind of pressure to which the Mexican media are constantly subjected.

“Yet again we have cases of politicians abusing their positions to try to subjugate the media,” the press freedom organisation said. “Some of these have occurred in states where the attitude of the local authorities towards the media has already been called into question. The federal authorities must take action to ensure respect for press freedom when local officials or criminal groups try to restrict it.”

Journalist Daniel Méndez Najar, who used to work for the Suma regional daily, reported on 5 July that he had received death threats from José Zavala Antona, a member of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) who wants to be its candidate for mayor of Atlixco (in the southern state of Puebla). Méndez said he had been receiving constant threats by phone and email ever since the publication of the transcript of a conversation between Zavala and Puebla’s PRI governor, Mario Marín.

Marín gained notoriety for his alleged role in the persecution of freelance journalist Lydia Cacho after she linked him to a paedophile ring in a book published in 2004. Marín ordered her arrest and transfer to Puebla in highly questionable circumstances in 2005. The case was referred to this year to Mexico’s supreme court, whose ruling is still pending.

The daily a.m. in the central state of Guanajuato publicly protested on 8 and 9 July that it was the victim of an advertising boycott ordered by the state’s governor, Juan Manuel Oliva Ramírez, a member of the ruling National Action Party (PAN). The American Convention on Human Rights forbids granting or withholding state funds with the aim of influencing news media. Many of a.m.’s readers have reacted angrily to the news of the boycott.

Earlier this year, Reporters Without Borders criticised the municipal authorities of Celaya, a town in Guanajuato state, for collecting information on journalists (see release of 25 January 2007).

Death threats against journalist Mario Renato Menéndez Rodríguez, the owner and editor of Por Esto!, a regional daily based in the southeeastern state of Yucatán, were condemned by one of the state’s representatives in the federal congress on 9 July. In an article in his newspaper, Menéndez claimed that a local crime boss known as “El Negro Chalé” had put a price on his head equivalent to 300,000 euros. Reporters Without Borders previously voiced concern about a series of bomb attacks on Por Esto! in September of last year.

The federal authorities were blamed by radio listeners and journalists yesterday for the demise of the popular current affairs programme “Monitor,” which had been carried by Mexican radio stations for 33 years. The programme’s producer and presenter, José Gutiérrez, said it was the result of a business boycott orchestrated by federal officials under the previous president, Vicente Fox. In 2004, the courts ruled in favour of Grupo Monitor, the company that produced the programme, in its legal dispute with Radio Centro, a group run by a family closely linked to Fox.

Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, with two journalists killed and two missing since the start of the year.



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