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Mexico10 December 2002

Protection of journalists’ sources threatened

In the past several weeks, Mexican justice officials have questioned seven journalists over their sources. "When journalists are forced to reveal their sources, no one will confide in them. This puts at risk the right of society to be informed," said RSF Secretary General Robert Ménard in a letter to Mexican President Vicente Fox Quesada. "The principle of the protection of sources is the only guarantee of an independent investigative journalism, which is indispensable for transparency in public life," he added.

RSF also expressed "shock" over comments that President Fox made during a 15 November 2002 meeting in Paris with various human rights organisations, in which RSF participated. Among other things, Fox declared that there was no reason not to prosecute journalists who publish information obtained illegally. RSF called on the president to ensure that his country’s Criminal Procedure Code include an article protecting the secrecy of sources.

On 3 December, Daniel Moreno, a journalist and news director for the daily "El Universal", was summoned to appear in court and reveal his sources for an article published on 16 June. Moreno refused to do so, basing his decision on his right to protect his sources. The article in question concerned a corruption scandal in the public petroleum company Pemex. Following the article’s publication, authorities decided to launch an investigation, stating that some of the information, which was classified, could only have been obtained through unauthorised means. On 3 December, the attorney general explained that the objective of the investigation was not to attack journalists but rather to take measures against officials who give the media classified information.

On 18 November, journalists Enrique Méndez, Gustavo Castillo, Rubén Villalpando, Andrea Becerril, Ciro Pérez and Roberto Garduño were summoned in connection with a number of articles published in January on the same corruption case. The six reporters of the daily "La Jornada" refused to disclose their sources even though they were pressured to do so by the attorney general. They subséquent filed a complaint before the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH).

In a press release, CNDH President José Luis Soberanes affirmed that, "it is the right and, at the same time, obligation of journalists to maintain professional secrecy and to refuse to reveal their sources, as is done by other professionals, such as doctors and lawyers." The CNDH emphasised that the continual summons of journalists "has an intimidating and inhibiting effect on those who inform."

RSF called on President Fox to have the following article included in the Criminal Procedure Code:

"All journalists have the right to maintain the confidentiality of their sources of information. Any journalist who is questioned about information collected in the course of his work will not reveal its origin and no one will be able to adopt measures to force him to do so."

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in the annual report
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