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Coahuila first state to classify killing of journalists for their work as comparable to aggravated homicide

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 16 May 2008 ARTICLE 19 press release:

Mexico: Coahuila is the first state to classify as a specific crime the homicide of people for their journalism activities

On 13 May 2008, the 17th legislature of the Coahuila State Congress approved amendments classifying the killing of people in retaliation for their journalism as a particularly serious crime, comparable to aggravated homicide. This means that such killings will now be considered very serious and those responsible will face sentences of up to 60 years in prison.

In order to implement the mechanisms needed to prevent such crimes, which undermine press freedom, the Coahuila Congress's Joint Commissions on Governance and Constitutional Matters issued a ruling modifying various articles of Coahuila's Criminal Code, its Criminal Procedures Code and its Social Assistance Law; the ruling was approved by the Congress in a plenary session on 13 May.

The wherases of the ruling stipulate, among other things, that murder, kidnapping, pressures and threats against journalists, and the failure to investigate, prosecute and punish such crimes, severely undermine free expression and press freedom.

With the approval of this initiative, the Criminal Code will now contain a specific provision regarding the killing of people in relation to their journalism activities, and the same sentences currently imposed for aggravated homicide will now also apply to journalists' killers. The initiative also stipulates that the State may provide social assistance to the dependents of anyone murdered in connection with their journalism activities.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes this initiative by the Coahuila state Congress, and considers it a significant advance in the protection of free expression and press freedom.

ARTICLE 19 reiterates its call for other Mexican states to adopt all the measures necessary to prevent, investigate and punish every violation of the right to free expression and press freedom.

This alert has been prepared with the Press and Democracy Foundation (Fundación Prensa y Democracia, PRENDE).

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