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Veracruz-based "La Jornada" journalist burgled twice, intimidation suspected

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is very concerned about two burglaries which occurred at the home of Andrés Timoteo Morales, correspondent for "La Jornada" newspaper in the eastern city of Veracruz, on 9 and 16 January 2008. Morales's laptop and USB flash drive containing work files were stolen in the first of the two break-ins, which he regards as an attempt to intimidate him.

"Morales's account of the two robberies suggests that the second was meant to deflect attention from the first, which was designed to obstruct his work," the press freedom organisation said. "He has had to change his residence and he has good reason to fear for his safety. The Veracruz state authorities and the special federal prosecutor's office for crimes against journalists should together do what is necessary to protect him and investigate the link between the burglaries and his work. Light also needs to be shed on a very sensitive case he has been covering."

The USB flash drive that was taken in the first break-in on 9 January contained Morales's archives of all the investigations he had carried out from 2004 to 2007. Aside from that and his laptop, the only things taken were a few items of no value.

When two Veracruz state police officers came to his home on the morning of 16 January to investigate the burglary, "they explained that the burglars would have been better off taking the ceramic figures that were in the living room," Morales told RSF. "When I returned home a few hours later, I was astonished to see that the ceramic figures had been stolen, along with a few other personal effects."

Morales added that, while at his home, the police did not carry out the usual investigations. He decided after this that he ought to change residence.

Morales was one of the first journalists to write about the murder of Ernestina Ascencio, a member of the local Nahuatl indigenous community, on 26 February 2007, allegedly by soldiers who raped her first. After conducting an investigation in which two journalists, Rodrigo Vera and Regina Martínez of the weekly "Proceso" were asked to give statements, the Veracruz State Prosecutor concluded that Ascencio was not raped and died of natural causes (see IFEX alert of 21 January 2008). The state judicial authorities have just reopened the case.

Because of the alarming level of violence to which the Mexican media are exposed, senators who are members of the opposition Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) requested that the head of the Special Federal Prosecutor's Office for Crimes against Journalists (FEADP) should be summoned to appear before Congress.

The FEADP was created in February 2006 by the government, headed by President Vicente Fox, but it lacks adequate resources and has made little headway in combating impunity for crimes of violence against the media.

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