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Journalist dismissed from Radio Zacatecas

(ARTICLE 19/CENCOS/IFEX) - Mexico City, 8 May 2009 - María Teresa Velásquez Navarrete, who has had a career as a journalist for 30 years, was dismissed from her position at Radio Zacatecas in northern Mexico, because of state governmental pressure on the station.

On 10 April, the station's director, Efraín Esparza Montalvo, told the journalist "I have been given instructions to give you this letter. Someone has to be the bad guy, and today that is me." The letter was a notification of the termination of Velásquez Navarrete's contract as host of the station's programme "Otra dimensión". The only explanation given was that "she is the wife of a problematic journalist."

In an interview with ARTICLE19 and CENCOS, Velásquez Navarrete said that, in addition to her unjustified dismissal, her husband, journalist Francisco Reynoso, and her children had received threatening calls from one specific telephone number. She also said that her replacement on the radio programme is Beatriz Ávalos, "who has been presenting the governor's Saturday programme, reporting only good news."

A week before she was dismissed, Velásquez Navarrete's husband, Reynoso, the well-known writer of the "El runrún" column in the "Imagen" newspaper, wrote an article critical of the amount of money the government spends on cellular phones, while it ignores other local priorities. According to other journalists, such as Enrique Laviada, a columnist with the "El balcón" newspaper, Reynoso's article angered the state government, and Velásquez Navarrete's dismissal constitutes a warning to journalists, pressuring them to censor themselves.

Velásquez Navarrete has been the host of the morning and evening broadcasts of "Otra dimensión" for almost two and a half years. In the past, she has been presented with awards for her journalism work.

A diversity of voices is an essential element for public debate in any democracy. The expression of critical opinions, especially when they are directed at the actions of the government, promotes accountability and allows for the informed participation of citizens in decision making.

ARTICLE19 and CENCOS remind the Zacatecas government authorities of their obligation to promote, protect and defend the right to free expression for all people in their jurisdiction, including those who voice critical opinions. Similarly, the organizations call on Radio Zacatecas to assume the social and moral responsibility of promoting a plurality of opinions in their content.

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