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GOVERNMENT SILENT ON RECENT SPATE OF ATTACKS ON PRESS

Three journalists killed. A crime reporter goes into exile. A newspaper is forced to cut down on crime reporting for security reasons. Dozens of journalists attacked or threatened. All this in Mexico so far this year - and the government has once again failed to respond, say ARTICLE 19 - Mexico, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) - Mexico, the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET), the National Center for Social Communication (CENCOS) and other Mexican rights groups.

The groups are concerned about "the lack of attention given to these cases at the national level, especially given that these are offences not only against the work of journalists, but against society's right to be informed."

The first to be killed in 2008 was Francisco Ortiz Monroy, a reporter for the newspaper "El Diario de México", who was assassinated in Camargo, Tamaulipas on 5 February. The motives of his murder are still not known. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) notes that Tamaulipas is known for being a drug trafficking hub and one of the most dangerous states in the country, in which many journalists have been killed.

Just two days later, on 7 February, Bonifacio Cruz and Alfonso Cruz Cruz, a father-son team at "El Real" newspaper, were killed during an attack on a government official in Chimalhuacán, Mexico State.

Further north, Carlos Huerta Muñoz, crime reporter for "Norte de Ciudad Juárez", in Chihuahua, fled the country on 30 January after receiving death threats. The newspaper was forced to resort to self-censorship, announcing it would cut down its reports on organised crime and drug trafficking for safety reasons.

Just last week, another crime reporter, Mauricio Estrada Zamora, who works for two Michoacán state-based newspapers - "La Opinión de Apatzingán" and "La Opinión de Michoacán" - in southern México, went missing.

The list goes on. In Pánuco, Veracruz, eastern Mexico, the director of the morning daily "Voces de Veracruz", Octavio Soto Torres, survived a shooting attack on 23 January. Although the State Commission for the Defence of Journalists agreed to increase security measures, ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS found during a recent visit to the region that the promise remained unfulfilled - a trend that repeats itself across the country.

Last July, the authorities promised the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights they would make investigations into crimes against journalists a higher priority - by strengthening the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists (FEADP), for example. They also vowed to report back to the Commission on the progress made into cases of violations against journalists.

But, the groups point out that none of the promises have been carried out, despite questions by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour about the persistent violations against free expression during a recent visit to the country.

Meanwhile, a separate report by Human Rights Watch found that while Mexico's Human Rights Commission (CNDH) documents abuses and is potentially the "most important catalyst" for the reforms needed to prevent human rights violations, "it doesn't take crucial steps needed to bring about change." Human Rights Watch is urging CNDH to adopt measures to carry out its functions more effectively.

The "resounding silence from the authorities... can only be explained by a lack of political will," says ARTICLE 19. According to its research, the state is the main perpetrator of violence against journalists in Mexico.

The groups once again demand that the government fulfil its international and regional human rights obligations to prevent and investigate crimes against journalists, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation.

Visit these links:
- Joint statement: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/90761/
- Human Rights Watch, "Mexico's National Human Rights Commission:
A Critical Assessment": http://hrw.org/reports/2008/mexico0208/
- IFEX Mexico page: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/97/
- CENCOS: http://www.cencos.org/
- CEPET: http://www.cepet.org/
(19 February 2008)

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