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IAPA highlights absence of government action following assassination of yet another journalist

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, September 26, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today condemned yet another journalist's murder in Mexico and blamed the government of President Felipe Calderón "for lacking the political will needed" to implement a strategy to end the violence, administer justice and ensure full freedom of the press.

The IAPA's reaction came after Mexican authorities discovered on Saturday the dismembered body of journalist María Elizabeth Macías Castro, 39, news editor for the daily Primera Hora in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, on the United States border. According to local media she worked via social media, under the pen name "La Nena de Laredo" (The Laredo Girl) to expose activities of organized crime in the region.

Macías was abducted on Friday and her body was found the next day near a monument to Christopher Columbus in the town square. Beside her remains were a computer keyboard, mouse, cables, earphones and speakers, and a message saying, "I am here because of my reports and yours . . . for those who don't want to believe, this happened to me because of my actions." The note was signed with her pseudonym, "La Nena de Laredo", followed by the letters "ZZZZ" used by the Zetas drug trafficking cartel.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín voiced frustration on noting "the failure to carry out the promises of President Felipe Calderón, who just one year ago assured us at a meeting that he would redouble efforts to guarantee the safety of reporters and pursue reforms so that crimes against journalists would be treated as federal offenses."

"It is totally unacceptable," Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, declared, "for the government to lack the necessary political will to implement the reforms." He added, "The lack of action and guarantees has given rise to an evident culture of self-censorship that is undermining the work of the press and the public's right to be informed."

The chairman of the IAPA's Impunity Committee, Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, expressed condemnation of "this new murder of a journalist," saying that, "while we are not sure of the motives in each of the crimes, we cannot fail to denounce them and to call for immediate action by the authorities to solve them, above all when this year alone nine journalists have been slain and another has gone missing."

Ealy Ortiz, president of the Mexico City, Mexico, newspaper El Universal, also reproached the Mexican Congress for being "slow and negligent" to move ahead on a bill to make crimes against freedom of expression federal offenses - a reference to the debate by lawmakers on enactment of the initiative held several weeks ago. "Violence and the crimes against journalists," he said, "are not something that has emerged in 2011. For years we have witnessed how criminals continue to gain ground and use violence to settle their disputes, and meanwhile in Mexico the fact remains that strong decisions are not made."

In November last year, during the IAPA's General Assembly in Mérida, federal legislators from the Chamber of Deputies' Special Committee for the Monitoring of Attacks on Journalists promised to work on the proposal for federalization, as well as a stiffening of penalties and a provision that would make crimes against journalists exempt from statutes of limitations. There has, however, been no progress on this to date.

The IAPA made its views on the issue known to the Special Prosecutor's Office for Crimes Against Journalists during its Universities Hemispheric Conference held late last month in Puebla, Mexico, when it criticized the lack of concrete action to solve more than a hundred crimes committed in the last two decades.

In addition to Macías, the following journalists have been murdered in Mexico in 2011: Ana María Marcela Yarce Viveros and Rocío González Trápaga of Mexico City; Humberto Millán Salazar of Sinaloa; Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, Miguel Angel López Velasco and Noel López Olguín of Veracruz, and Luis Emmanuel Ruiz Carrillo and Rodolfo Ochoa Moreno of Coahuila, while the whereabouts of Marco Antonio López of Guerrero remain unknown.
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