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"Parallel powers" ("poderes paralelos") were behind almost a third of all attacks on free expression last year in Mexico, says a new report by the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET).

According to CEPET's investigation, parallel powers - defined by CEPET as groups who influence decisions by exerting pressure on the authorities, often with violence - were behind 15 of 52 attacks on media outlets and journalists that were targeted in 2007 because of their work. In 12 of the 15 cases, the assailants were linked to drug trafficking.

Parallel powers were likely behind the murder of two journalists last year: Amado Ramírez Dillanes, a former correspondent for Televisa in Acapulco, and Saúl Noé Martínez Ortega, of the "Interdiario" newspaper, assassinated in the department of Sonora, which was the most dangerous state for journalists in 2007.

CEPET also points to other threats to free expression that are often found where the parallel powers are at work: self-censorship and impunity. The report includes first-hand accounts of journalists being threatened and their fight against self-censorship. One of CEPET's key findings is that in 12 of the 15 cases where journalists were attacked by parallel powers, the victim received threats prior to the incident.

CEPET's investigation was partly funded by IFEX's Campaigns Programme, and is one of several activities under a Latin America-wide initiative aimed at uncovering information about "parallel powers" in the region, from drug traffickers to paramilitaries. More than 10 IFEX members in Latin America are part of the project.

Read the full report (in Spanish only) here:

For more details on the parallel powers initiative, email: campaigns(@)ifex(.)org

(18 March 2008)

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