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2006 WORST YEAR YET FOR MEXICO'S MEDIA, REPORT FINDS

State authorities, armed groups and drug cartels made 2006 the worst year on record for Mexico's media, say ARTICLE 19, the National Center for Social Communication (Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social, CENCOS), Fundación Manuel Buendía, and Mexico's press union (Sindicato Nacional de redactores de la prensa, SNRP) in their annual assessment of press freedom in the country.

According to "Counting the Cost: The State of Freedom of Expression and Information in Mexico", 131 cases of violence against media workers were reported in 2006, up from 93 in 2005 and 76 five years ago. Ten journalists were murdered, making Mexico the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists after Iraq.

The authorities remain the main perpetrator of offences and violence against journalists - responsible for 41 percent of all cases recorded. "Bringing the state authorities to justice will constitute one major step towards tackling the spiral of violence and the climate of impunity, and will send the right signal to all perpetrators," ARTICLE 19 says.

The other perpetrators include drug cartels and armed groups involved in social conflicts, like the Popular Assembly of Oaxaca. Consequently, Oaxaca replaced Mexico City as the state with the highest number of violations (30 percent).

Attacks on Mexican journalists show no signs of waning this year, either, according to CENCOS alerts. On 25 May, the owner of "Cambio" newspaper in Sonora temporarily shut down the newspaper, following two grenade attacks that caused physical damage to the paper's facilities. The following day, the severed head of a local councillor who allegedly tipped off drug traffickers to the local authorities was left at the door of "Tabasco Hoy" newspaper, in Villahermosa, southern Mexico.

Although the federal government established a special unit in February 2006 to investigate crimes against journalists, of the 108 cases investigated since the unit was launched none had been closed a year later, the report says.

CENCOS and ARTICLE 19, along with other organisations, also held an international workshop on defending human rights and free expression in Mexico City last week. The two-day conference brought together a number of human rights groups, UN representatives, journalists, academics and activists to discuss ways to make human rights campaigning worldwide more effective.

Read "Counting the Cost" here: http://tinyurl.com/2wpr2q

Visit these links:
- CENCOS, ARTICLE 19 and the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET) alerts on press freedom violations in Mexico: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/97/
- CENCOS: http://www.cencos.org
(5 June 2007)

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