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Two magazine journalists face legal action over coverage of elderly indigenous woman's controversial death

(CEPET/IFEX) - A complaint has been filed against two journalists of "Proceso" magazine, the country's most important political weekly, by the Veracruz State Prosecutor, regarding a report in which army personnel were implicated in the rape and death of an elderly indigenous woman.

The State Prosecutor accuses the journalists of having published a photograph of the corpse of 73-year-old Ernestina Ascencio, despite the prohibition on publication of such photographs.

According to "La Jornada" newspaper, on 3 September 2007, the national human rights commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) recommended that an investigation be launched against Rodrigo Vera and Regina Martínez, both journalists with "Proceso". At the time, the commission had recently concluded an investigation into Ascencio's death and determined that she had not been the victim of rape or assault.

The photograph was published in the 11 March 2007 issue of "Proceso", to accompany a report by Vera and Martínez. The image had been published in other media outlets, and apparently had been leaked by the State Prosecutor's Office, according to Vera.

"They want me to tell them who was at the autopsy or who let me into the morgue to take the picture, but I was never there," said Vera, who says he was only responsible for the article, not the photograph. "I got to Zongolica, Veracruz (in southeastern Mexico, where Ascencio died), three days after her burial. I interviewed her relatives and neighbours. I was only there a couple of days."

Martínez told "La Jornada" that she fears being arrested, and that the legal action appears to her to be a deliberate act of intimidation by the Veracruz state government. She says she has not been summoned for questioning, but is aware that a complaint has been filed against her.

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