Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the decision announced on 2 June by the state of Quintana Roo in south-eastern Mexico not to respond to a request from the federal justice ministry to issue arrest warrants against seven current and former officials in Puebla state, southern Mexico, implicated in the unfair arrest of freelance journalist Lydia Cacho in December 2005. Judge Benjamín Navarrete said that the charges in question - “torture” and “forging documents” - should be notified to the suspects by the justice system in their own state of Puebla.
The federal justice minister in April this year also asked for an arrest warrant to be issued against textiles magnate José Camel Nacif, accused by Cacho of alleged membership of a paedophile ring and whose defamation suit against the journalist led to her arrest. The courts in Quintana Roo have never ruled on the case of this businessman, close to Puebla state governor, Mario Marín, who is also suspected of ordering the arrest and transfer of Cacho from Quintana Roo state, where she lives, to Puebla state. The Puebla governor was for his part cleared of all charges by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, the country’s highest jurisdiction, on 29 November 2007.
03.04 - New attempt by Puebla authorities to censor Lydia Cacho highlights difficulty of covering paedophilia
Reporters Without Borders is worried about the fate of journalists who try to cover paedophilia in Mexico, especially after the authorities in the southern city of Puebla obstructed preparations on 30 March for a presentation by freelance journalist Lydia Cacho, a specialist in the subject, of her new book on 5 April.
Two other journalists, Sanjuana Martínez of the Monterrey-based regional daily Milenio Diario de Monterrey and Carmen Aristegui of W Radio, have also run into problems over paedophilia-related reporting since the start of the year. Martínez’s regular column was scrapped after she linked church figures to paedophilia cases, while Aristegui was fired after revealing how Cacho was arrested in December 2005 on the orders of Puebla’s governor.
“We do not as a rule get involved in a news organisation’s internal decisions but the explanations given by Milenio Diario de Monterrey for the withdrawal of Martínez’s column and by W Radio for Artistegui’s dismissal are not very convincing,” Reporters Without Borders said. “And we see yet again that Cacho continues to pay dearly for investigating paedophile networks in which leading figures were involved.”
The press freedom organisation added: “It is clearly not a good idea for journalists to talk about paedophilia in Mexico. The presentation of Cacho’s new book with her two colleagues in attendance, coming at a time when the media are subject to strong pressure as soon as the subject is broached, is an act of courage that we salute. It is vital that nothing should mar this event.”
A wall poster announcing the presentation of Cacho’s new book was removed at the behest of the Puebla police on 30 March. The authorities said it “did not meet safety standards.” Another poster immediately replaced it.
The new book, “Memories of Infamy,” published by Random House Mondadori, includes an account of her December 2005 arrest and the various attacks and intimidation attempts to which she was subjected after the publication in 2004 of her book “The Demons of Eden,” in which she exposed the alleged involvement of well-known figures in paedophilia cases including José Camel Nacif, a textile entrepreneur close to Puebla governor Mario Marín.
Random House Mondadori told Reporters Without Borders that six local radio stations and newspapers called at the last minute to cancel interviews scheduled with Cacho to talk about the new book. At the same time, Mario Alberto Mejía, the editor of the news website Quinta Columna, reported that access to his site had been blocked in Puebla government offices.
The storm over Cacho’s arrest broke when W Radio and the national daily La Jornada revealed the content of an alleged phone conversation between Nacif and Governor Marín as Cacho was being transferred in an armoured truck from the eastern state of Quintana Roo, where she lives, to the state of Puebla. The two men reportedly “joked” about raping her during the trip. Despite the damning evidence, the National Supreme Court of Justice, Mexico’s highest court, dismissed charges against Marín on 29 November 2007.
Aristegui, who was the person responsible for breaking the story on W Radio, was dismissed for “editorial incompatibility” on 3 January although she had her own programme on the station for five years.
“Restructuring of the pages” was the reason given by the management of Milenio Diario de Monterrey when they told Martínez on 29 February that her weekly column was being dropped. When contacted by Reporters Without Borders, managing editor Roberta Garza Medina was adamant that it was not a case of censorship.
While acknowledging that she was not absolutely sure, Martínez pointed out to Reporters Without Borders that she had just written a story about a priest suspected of paedophilia who was still working and was being protected by his church superiors. Garza is the sister of the vicar-general of the Legionaries of Christ, an ultra-conservative Catholic organisation that has itself been tainted by this kind of scandal.
Members of women’s organisations staged a protest in Monterrey on 1 April against the withdrawal of Martínez’s column. Like Cacho, she has become well known as result of writing two books - “Manto Púrpura” (Purple Robe) and “Prueba de fe” (Proof of faith) - that were the product of extensive research into paedophilia in the Catholic church.