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Authorities don't see death threats as crimes

Lydia Cacho, an investigative journalist in Mexico who exposed a paedophilia network involving businessmen and government officials in her book, is facing a new round of death threats and surveillance.

Cacho reports that men have been following her movements from parked cars outside of her office and apartment. Unknown individuals have also been seen taking photos of her car and videotaping her apartment building. One particular man, noticeably armed with a semi-automatic gun on his lower back according to witnesses, was seen outside of Cacho's apartment on three separate occasions in May. Cacho has also been receiving death threats through comments on her blog ( http://www.lydiacacho.net ) since February 2009, report the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) and ARTICLE 19.

When Cacho reported to Quintano Roo State police that armed individuals have been stalking her home, office and car, the police said that while they will investigate the license plates of the cars involved, they don't see the threatening surveillance as a criminal offence. The authorities have also refused to take action on the online death threats, Cacho says.

"The incidents reported by Lydia Cacho are particularly worrying in light of the failure of the Mexican State to protect her in the past and of the general climate of violence the media is facing in the country, " said Dr Agnès Callamard, the executive director of ARTICLE 19.

Cacho's 2005 book, "The Demons of Eden: the power behind pornography" revealed the names of several corrupt politicians who protected a major pedophilia network from the law. All but one of the people exposed in her book remain at liberty, WiPC reports.

After the book was published, Cacho was illegally arrested, detained and charged with criminal defamation. The case was brought against her by businessman Kamel Nacif, who was recorded thanking the governor of Puebla for his assistance in detaining her. The audio tape was excluded as evidence in a Supreme Court case challenging the charges, however, on grounds that it came from an unknown source. The defamation charges against Cacho were dropped in 2007, but the Mexico Supreme Court ruled late that year that the governor did not violate the law in ordering Cacho's arrest. In a report released earlier this year, Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) concluded Cacho was tortured in prison and her 2005 arrest violated her basic human rights.

Since her release from detention, Cacho has continued to report on human rights issues, including corruption, violence against women and the exploitation of children.

WiPC and ARTICLE 19 are demanding that the government of Mexico investigate the threats and take immediate measures to secure her safety. ARTICLE 19 further calls on President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa to assume full responsibility for Cacho's protection and publicly declare this guarantee.

Coming on the heels of Cacho's surveillance, IFEX member Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET) reports that following the murder of reporter Eliseo Barrón Hernández in the city of Durango, northern Mexico, other journalists in the region have received death threats. José Bladimir Antuna García, a reporter for "El Tiempo", said that on 26 May, the day Hernández's body was found, someone called him and said "Bladimir Antuna will be next". Antuna García also told CEPET he survived an assassination attempt on 26 April, when a gunman fired shots at him in front of his home.

In addition, on 27 May, pieces of cloth with death threats written on them were left for journalists and army personnel throughout Torreón, Coahuila, a city close to Durango, reports CEPET. One was left in front of the Televisa Laguna television station's offices. The pieces of cloth, signed by the drug-trafficking group led by Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, included messages such as: "We're here journalists. Ask Eliseo Barrón. 'El Chapo' and the Poniente cartel do not forgive."

The managers of a local newspaper, who preferred not to have the name of their media outlet published, told CEPET that several reporters have stopped showing up for work as a result of death threats. Out of fear, the paper managers told CEPET they were self-censoring by reducing their coverage of organised crime.

Freedom of expression organisations across the globe have expressed alarm over government and police indifference to the harassment, assaults and killings of journalists in Mexico. In light of this culture of impunity and the renewed threats against Cacho, WiPC is echoing its call for the government of Mexico to fulfill its promise to make the murder of journalists a federal offence.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Related stories on ifex.org
  • Fears for safety of author Lydia Cacho

    The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) is deeply concerned by the harassment of author, journalist and activist Lydia Cacho which has reportedly escalated over the last two weeks, giving rise to fears for her safety.

  • More journalists receive death threats following reporter's assassination in Durango

    José Bladimir Antuna García, a reporter for the "El Tiempo" newspaper, has received several death threats and was the target of an apparent assassination attempt.



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