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Political cartoonist receives death threat, assaulted in Oaxaca

ARTICLE 19 expresses serious concerns over assault on political cartoonist

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 24 April 2009 - A prominent political cartoonist, Mario Robles, of the newspaper Noticias Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca in western Mexico was violently assaulted and subjected to death threats by members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) on 19
April.

In an interview with ARTICLE 19, Robles reported that he was set upon by Indalesio Cruz Alcázar, and his son Isalesis Cruz, both of whom are campaigning for the PRI in Robles's neighborhood in the upcoming July elections. The men approached him and began kicking him repeatedly, leaving him with a number of visible wounds. They told him that he needed to modify his cartoons, and threatened to kill both him and his family.

According to reports following a press conference held later that evening, it is not the first time that these particular individuals have attacked local people due to their political affiliations.

In his thirty-year career as a cartoonist in Mexico, Robles has won the state journalistic award on six separate occasions, and is considered a prominent political commentator in the region.

Roble reported the attack to the Department of Justice of the State of Oaxaca but has received no offer of protection from them. Until now, the matter has gone no further.

There have been a number of problems in recent years for both journalists and human rights defenders in Oaxaca. Both the men named in the attack on Robles are campaigning for the PRI, which has been in power in the state for over seventy-five years.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned that this sort of attack constitutes censorship of political commentary - it negatively impacts the individual involved but also denies citizens the opportunity to receive information. Access to information and political comment is fundamental to any functioning democracy, particularly during elections.

"Cartoons serve a particular purpose in terms of political commentary," says Dr Agnés Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. "They are particularly influential because an image can often be more effective in making an impression than words. This is therefore a unique but particularly relevant form of social commentary that needs to be protected under the right to freedom of expression."

Mario Robles has suffered a violation to his human right to freedom of expression. The Mexican government is obliged, as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice. ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Mexican State and particularly the authorities of the State of Oaxaca to investigate all acts of violence, intimidation or harassment directed against the media, particularly where there is reason to believe that the act was motivated by the intention to interfere with media freedom, and to ensure that those responsible for such acts are brought to justice.

ARTICLE 19 is also concerned about outbreaks of violence that reflect a lack of political tolerance in the state of Oaxaca in view of upcoming elections.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the PRI to ensure, particularly in this sensitive period in the run-up to elections, that all of its members are under the direct control of the party, and that intimidation of this sort is not allowed to take place.

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