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ARTICLE 19 concerned over silence of government, UN human rights commissioner, in light of press freedom deterioration

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 12 February 2008 ARTICLE 19 press release:

ARTICLE 19 voices concern over recent deterioration in press freedom following a week plagued by three assassinations, threats, and self-censorship

In the last week, the Mexican press has been plagued by a series of serious violations. Francisco Ortiz Monroy, correspondent for "Diario de México" newspaper was assassinated in Camargo, Tamaulipas. Carlos Huerta Muñoz, crime reporter for "Norte de Ciudad Juárez", fled the country after receiving threats. The newspaper was forced to resort to self-censorship, announcing it would cut down its reports on organised crime for safety reasons. Bonifacio Cruz and Alfonso Cruz Cruz of "El Real" newspaper were killed during an attack on a government official in Chimalhuacán. According to Cecilia Vargas, of "La Verdad del Sureste" newspaper, her home was ransacked and hours later she received various threatening telephone calls.

Thus far the authorities have failed to adequately respond to this wave of attacks on journalists. Principle 9 of the Interamerican Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression stipulates that: "The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media, violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."

This week's incidents have only resulted in a resounding silence from the authorities. This can only be explained by a lack of political will to fulfill the government's responsibilities vis-à-vis human rights violations.

A recent visit to the country by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, would have been a great opportunity to draw the government's attention to the threats on freedom of expression. Unfortunately, Arbour chose to not raise the topic of journalists' safety during her visit, thus failing to provide some much needed support to local organisations fighting to address the matter.

ARTICLE 19 expresses its support for the families of Bonifacio Cruz, Alonso Cruz Cruz and Francisco Ortiz Monroy, and urges the authorities to ensure that their murders are investigated.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Mexican government to provide protection for Cecilia Vargas so that she can continue exercising her profession without fear of reprisals.

Furthermore, ARTICLE 19 once again demands that the government fulfill its international human rights obligations and establishes an effective policy of prevention, investigation and sanctions for those who commit attacks on freedom of expression.

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