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Mexico23 October 2002

Eight journalists face prison in Chihuahua state

Reporters Without Borders expressed concern today that a judge might grant a state prosecutor’s request to arrest eight journalists in the northern state of Chihuahua involved in reporting that a powerful local businessman was corrupt.

"It is vital to openness in public affairs that journalists can denounce corruption without risking imprisonment," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Chihuahua state supreme court president Pablo Zapata Zubiaga. He urged that the journalists not be arrested and that they be given a fair trial.

Judge Catalina Ruiz Pacheco agreed on 17 October 2002 to consider an application for the arrest of Oscar Cantú Murguía, editor of the daily Norte de Ciudad Juárez, and seven of his journalists - Armando Delgado, Manuel Aguirre, Guadalupe Salcido, Rosa Isela Pérez, Francisco Luján, Antonio Flores and Carlos Huertas. The paper said the law had been broken because the journalists had not been sent any details of the case and the charges against them.

They are being sued for libel by former Ciudad Juárez mayor Manuel Quevedo Reyes, who is now head of a real estate firm. He filed a complaint in January after a series of articles in the paper said the state government paid an very inflated price for land he sold it. The articles suggested government officials had deliberately over-valued the land. The former mayor is asking for 50 million pesos (€5,165,000) in damages and the closing of the newspaper.

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