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Three newspaper workers murdered in Oaxaca, following weeks of threats

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is an ARTICLE 19 press release:

ARTICLE 19 condemns murder of three newspaper workers in Oaxaca and demands security for threatened journalists

Yesterday, a vehicle, property of the Newspaper "El Imparcial del Istmo", was attacked. A newspaper distributor, Mateo Cortés Martínez, and two sellers, Agustín López and Flor Vásquez López, were shot dead in the street "La Noria" in Tehuantepec- Salina Cruz Highway, Oaxaca. Following weeks of threats allegedly issued by organised crime groups, the workers of the newspaper are living in fear for their security. The newspaper has demanded that special protection be provided to Gonzalo Domínguez, Information Coordinator, and Felipe Ramos, journalist, who have been special targets of the intimidating messages and threats.

OAXACA: At approximately 12:00 yesterday, a van, property of the newspaper "Imparcial", was intercepted. Traveling in the van were Mateo Cortés, Exclusive Distributor, and two colleagues, Agustín López and Flor Vásquez López. According to preliminary reports, the three passengers were killed, although federal and local authorities are yet to confirm this: "We don't have information yet, but it is clear that the target of the attack is the newspaper. The van was identified with the newspaper logo, and they were carrying credentials", said Mr. Benjamín Fernández, General Director. "It is urgent that personnel be evacuated from the region before any further attacks are initiated. It is not safe for us to continue working under these conditions", he concluded.

According to the testimony obtained by ARTICLE 19 from Luís David Quintana, Sub-Director of Information of "Imparcial", the paper's greatest concern is for the security of the staff working in the Istmo Region. "In the past few weeks, personnel have received emails and anonymous letters demanding that we stop reporting on the activities of Zetas in the Istmo" noted Mr. Quintana. "We are especially concerned for the security of Gonzalo Domínguez and Felipe Ramos, information coordinator and journalist, respectively, on police issues." Mr Quintana declared he had no trust in the local authorities and had therefore called on the federal authorities to investigate the case.

During a recent mission, ARTICLE 19 confirmed the climate of self-imposed censorship and insecurity currently being endured by media and journalists in Oaxaca. This regrettable attack and other aggressions that have occurred in the region over the last few months have demonstrated the inability of federal and local governments to fulfil their obligation to guarantee freedom of expression, particularly as exercised by journalists.

ARTICLE 19 stands in solidarity with the victims and their families and calls on federal authorities, especially the Special Prosecutor's Office for Crimes Against Journalists, to immediately undertake a full investigation to expose the perpetrators of this crime and to clarify their motives.

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

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