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Electoral tribunal rules against magazine in one of two lawsuits by political party in Reynosa

(CEPET/IFEX) - A federal electoral court (Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación, TEPJF) has ordered the magazine "Hora Cero" to abstain from publishing material "that offends or denigrates, or undermines the reputation or dignity" of Gerardo Peña Flores, the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) candidate for the mayoralty of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, in northeastern Mexico.

The magazine's editor, Héctor Hugo Jiménez Castillo, says "we do not feel insulted or harmed" by the ruling. He explained to CEPET that the magazine already proved that it had not undertaken "a unilateral campaign to discredit" Peña Flores.

On 18 July 2007, the PAN submitted a complaint to the state electoral council (Consejo Estatal Electoral) that the magazine had defamed Peña Flores, at that time aspiring to be the PAN candidate.

The origin of the complaint was an altered image of Peña Flores, in which he was depicted wearing a mask and sideburns, and that carried the captions: "Let's keep robbing Reynosa" and "As a civil servant, he allowed a criminal group to loot the municipal coffers . . . Now he wants to be mayor. Will you allow him?"

Jiménez Castillo noted that, as recognised in the sentence, the magazine proved that the offending content was a paid advertisement.

"What worries us," he added, "is that the electoral court judges should act surprised that Reynosa has been run by a criminal political group. In our magazine, we have unmasked those groups that have sought to limit liberties and to bully media outlets."

Jiménez Castillo also considers the current ruling to have established a "tie" of sorts, since on 10 October the TEPJF ruled in favour of "Hora Cero" and other media outlets in response to another complaint by the PAN, to the effect that the Tamaulipas media had waged a campaign against Reynosa mayor Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca. "They respected our free press" in that case, stated Jiménez Castillo.

In that case, the court ruled that "news items critical of a politician cannot be considered part of a dirty or negative campaign, when there is no proof to link the media outlet involved with the concerted action of a third party."

Jiménez Castillo says that his magazine has exposed significant corruption under García Cabeza de Vaca, much of which allegedly occurred with the full complicity of Peña Flores, who served in the municipal administration at the time.

Jiménez Castillo recalled also that, after publishing information on these matters, magazine staff were subjected to death threats (see IFEX alerts of 22 and 13 June 2007). When the threats were reported to the relevant authorities, they immediately ceased.

"We are not afraid: we have backed up all our allegations with evidence. We exposed them, but they cannot tolerate a free press," he added. "We know that our integrity is at stake. We have been exercising freedom of expression responsibly for 10 years, and our lives have changed. None of us goes out alone anymore, and we are careful how we report. We know the danger we run."

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