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Guerrero state governor's brother brings defamation case against journalists over article on alleged corruption

(CEPET/IFEX) - On 25 September 2007, Alberto Torreblanca Galindo, brother of the governor of Guerrero state, filed charges of "defamation" and "moral injury" against journalists Ezequiel Flores Contreras, Hugo Pacheco León, Jesús Saavedra Lezama, Mónica Martínez and Teresa de la Cruz, of the newspaper "El Sur".

Torreblanca Galindo is demanding 10 million pesos (approx. US$ 924,000) in damages, as well as the payment of his legal fees and medical expenses incurred by "the impact of hurtful and defamatory articles".

The accused journalists investigated an alleged case of corruption involving the state secretary of education and a construction company, of which Torreblanca Galindo is an associate, contracted to repair school buildings, according to Flores Contreras' sources. The first of the articles on the case appeared on 5 June.

"Torreblanca Galindo has someone who stands in for him in the company (a 'prestanombres' or 'name-lender'); he hides behind this person's name," said Flores Contreras, who covers stories on security and human rights. The lawsuit, he added, is "a message to reporters not to investigate" such cases in future.

"We do not expect justice in this case; we expect to lose," the journalist added, "because with the notification of the action against us we were told that it pertained to our publication of 'unfounded news', as if the judgment had already been made."

Journalists of Guerrero state will march on 18 October to demand an end to the lawsuits brought by officials against members of their profession, and to demand a proper investigation into cases of journalists attacked or killed over the past five years in this region of southern Mexico.

"The aim of the march is to demand that the government ensure the existence of an environment in which ethical and responsible journalism can be safely practiced," Flores Contreras told CEPET.

In the call to participate in the march, Pedro Arzeta García, secretary general of the XVII delegation of the national union of press editors, noted that "in direct affront to journalists in Guerrero, a baseless legal action has been brought forward. One cannot sue a journalist merely for quoting opinions critical of the current state government."

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