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Megamedia publishing house denounces bribery attempt by federal government official

(CEPET/IFEX) - The Megamedia publishing group, which publishes the "Diario de Yucatán" and "La i" newspapers, has said that a federal government official tried to bribe the company in order to promote Mario Ávila Lizárraga, the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) candidate for governor in the state of Campeche, in southern Mexico.

In the 31 March and 1 April 2009 editions of the "Diario de Yucatán", Megamedia said that, on 26 March, the general manager and assistant marketing manager from Megamedia's Campeche division were called to the offices of Carlos Mouriño Terrazo, the brother of the late interior secretary, Juan Camilo, to discuss an advertising contract.

In addition to Mouriño Terrazo, the general manager of the National Lottery, Miguel Ángel Jiménez Godínez, and Ávila Lizárraga's campaign manager, Jorge Luis Lavalle Maury, attended the meeting, according to "Diario de Yucatán".

During the meeting, Mouriño Terrazo asked for a quote on campaign advertising for several different government positions in both of the newspapers that Megamedia publishes. The two newspapers have a high level of influence in the region. The Megamedia executives established a price of three million pesos (approx. US$220,000) less a discount of 20% for the package, to which Jiménez Godínez responded, "Perfect, invoice it to the National Lottery."

When the Megamedia representative said that this type of invoicing was not acceptable, Jiménez Godínez replied, "I'm the general manager of the National Lottery and Juan Camilo was my brother." The Megamedia representative then clarified that the company's ethics code and policies would not allow for this type of invoicing and that the invoice should only be made out to the political party in question.

Faced with the refusal of the Megamedia personnel, the head of the National Lottery offered to sign a three-year advertising contract that would amount to four million pesos (approx. US$295,000) in increased revenues for the newspapers. One of the Megamedia representatives then reminded him that the advertising for the various draws that the lottery conducts is free since it is considered to be a matter of public interest.

Jiménez Godínez then insisted that the company representatives call the company's directors. The directors indicated that they would provide a response at a later time.

According to "Diario de Yucatán", Megamedia subsequently sent representatives to Mexico City with instructions to reject the "illegal proposals" and to lodge a complaint with the country's president, as well as the interior minister and the PAN's national president.

CEPET condemns this attempt to bribe Megamedia and considers these types of actions to be in violation of Article 13 of the Organisation of American States' Inter-American Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, which states that: "The exercise of power and the use of public funds by the state, the granting of customs duty privileges, the arbitrary and discriminatory placement of official advertising and government loans; the concession of radio and television broadcast frequencies, among others, with the intent to put pressure on and punish or reward and provide privileges to social communicators and communications media because of the opinions they express threaten freedom of expression, and must be explicitly prohibited by law."

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