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National human rights commission rules Guanajuato state official violated two newspaper's directors' freedom of expression

(CEPET/IFEX) - On 21 December 2007 the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) recommended to Juan Manuel Oliva Ramírez, the governor of Guanajuato state, located in central Mexico, that an official of his administration offer a public apology to the directors of "a.m." and "Correo" newspapers for having violated their rights to freedom of expression, honour and good reputation. Oliva Ramírez belongs to the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN), the same party to which President Felipe Calderón belongs.

On 11 May, the secretary of the government, Gerardo Mosqueda Martínez, had made offensive comments, using damaging terms to refer to Enrique Gómez Orozco and Arnoldo Cuéllar Ornelas, the directors of "a.m." and "Correo" newspapers, respectively, during a public meeting with state and federal officials.

The CNDH subsequently recommended that Mosqueda Martínez apologise publicly and in writing. In a press conference on 21 July he said that he was apologizing, but made more offensive remarks and said he had received supportive telephone calls from many friends backing the opinions he had expressed in May, which had implied that the two newspaper directors were corrupt and otherwise lacking in ethics.

According to the CNDH ruling, Mosqueda Martínez's 21 July comments did not constitute the apology that it had recommended he make, but that he had instead principally focused on congratulating himself for having received support for his earlier comments.

This is not the first incident of this nature during Oliva Ramírez's term. The newpaper "a.m." publicly complained on 8 and 9 July that it was a victim of a government advertising boycott ordered by the governor himself. It stated, "never, since 'a.m.' was founded 29 years ago, has any government used public funds to pressure or punish the free expression of our ideas. Not even in the worst periods of the PRI's authoritarianism was there an attempt to pressure 'a.m.' in such a fashion." (see IFEX alert of 18 July 2007). The Institutional Revolutionary Party (El Partido Revolucionario Institutional, PRI) governed Mexico for 70 years.

Under the law, the governor has 15 business days to decide if he accepts the CNDH recommendation, and another 15 days to act on it.

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