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Prizewinning journalist's dismissal, allegedly due to pressures on newspaper, narrows informational pluralism

(ARTICLE 19/CENCOS/IFEX) - Journalist Sanjuana Martínez Montemayor has been informed that her services will not longer be required by the daily "Milenio", in Monterrey, due to a "restructuring of the newspaper." The last article published by the journalist was entitled "Ernestina: a year of ignominy" in the newspaper's "A Bocajarro" column. In the article, Martínez Montemayor criticised the federal government's handling of the case of Ernestina Ascención Rosario, a 72-year-old indigenous woman who died, allegedly after being gang-raped by Mexican soldiers. The article was published on 29 February 2008, one week before the journalist's dismissal.

Martínez Montemayor, who won Mexico's National Award for Journalism (Premio Nacional de Periodismo) in 2006, received constant threats in 2006 and the early part of January 2007 over her coverage of the case of Mexican priest Nicolás Aguilar, accused of having sexually abused dozens of boys in Mexico and the United States. Her articles had also mentioned two cardinals who apparently protected Aguilar.

Martínez Montemayor told CENCOS that she does not know the precise reason for her dismissal. She noted that in addition to the Ascención Rosario case she has also recently covered stories about the Church hierarchy in Monterrey and about corruption in the handling of funding within the Faculty of Communication Sciences at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León (Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León).

Martínez Montemayor said that she had never filed a complaint with government authorities about the 2006 threats against her because she does not trust the authorities. She stated that she has always opted instead to go public about the threats in the hope that the publicity would dissuade any potential assailants from attacking her. She noted that the threats dropped off when she publicised them.

The journalist, who also participated in W Radio station's now-defunct programme hosted by Carmen Aristegui, has been a critical voice, bringing to light topics, such as paedophilia within the Catholic Church and abuse of power by state authorities, that few journalists dared to cover.

CENCOS and ARTICLE 19 believe "Milenio" was strongly pressured to dismiss Martínez Montemayor by one or more of the groups made uncomfortable by her articles.

CENCOS is concerned by the newspaper's decision to silence a voice recognised for having had the courage to criticise serious situations involving different levels of power. This is a serious setback for media pluralism. Her dismissal by the daily in Monterrey limits not only her right to freedom of expression but also the public's right to information.

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