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Special prosecutor rules out possibility of link between journalists' murders and their work

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders voiced astonishment at a 16 December 2008 public statement by the special prosecutor for crimes against journalists, Octavio Alberto Orellana Wiarco, ruling out the possibility that two young female journalists from Oaxaca state were killed because of their work.

His statement that the radio journalists of the Triqui indigenous community were shot in an attack aimed at the driver of their vehicle showed, yet again, the special prosecutor's determination to play down the real dangers facing Mexican journalists while doing their job, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"The few known facts of the investigation into the killings of Teresa Bautista Flores and Felicítas Martínez do not indeed lead to a conclusion that they were linked to their work. We should however remember that this file has since the start been in the hands of the Oaxaca judicial authorities, who have never shed light on a single one of the recent murders of journalists and have concentrated on exonerating the government of all responsibility in the case of Brad Will," Reporters Without Borders said.

"Octavio Alberto Orellana Wiarco has endorsed the claims of an unreliable local justice official, which does not bode well for a possible elucidation of the death of the two women at a federal level. It is also worrying that the special prosecutor insists on denying, on principle, that the freedom of the press is in danger in his country, when his mandate is to defend it", the organisation concluded.

Questioned about his annual report, Orellana Wiarco replied that the two young staff members of "La Voz que Rompe el Silencio" (The voice that breaks the silence), shot dead in Putla de Guerrero on 7 April 2008, were "collateral victims of an attack aimed at the driver of the vehicle in which they were travelling". He automatically ruled out any motive linked to their work, prompting outrage among community radio representatives.

Jurist David Peña, of the Network of Indigenous Community Radio stations of the Southeast, told Reporters Without Borders that there was not a single fact to support this version of events and he condemned the attitude of the prosecutor "who is only trying to limit his responsibility and to offload his duty onto the Oaxaca prosecutor general's office". The community association appealed to the special prosecutor to publicly retract or to produce new information to back up his conclusions.

The special prosecutor's statements came immediately after his recent attacks on press freedom organisations, including Reporters Without Borders, whom he accuses of putting Mexico in the ranks of the most dangerous countries for journalists on the continent, despite evidence to the contrary. The organisation wrote to the special prosecutor on 11 December 2008 but has so far received no reply.

For further information on the Will case, see:

Updates the Bautista Flores and Martínez case:

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