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IAPA asks Zacatecas state government to cease discrimination against local newspaper

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami (June 12, 2009) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today called on the state government of Zacatecas in central Mexico to end its policy of discriminating against the local newspaper Imagen de Zacatecas. Official advertising and public information have both been withheld from the paper and its reporters in retaliation for its editorial stance.

Executives of the newspaper complained to the IAPA that because they refused to accept demands on several occasions from state government representatives to change their editorial policies, official advertising was suspended as a pressure tactic and at the same time the paper has faced difficulties in accessing public information along with other news media.

IAPA President Enrique Santos Calderón, editor of the Bogotá, Colombia, newspaper El Tiempo, declared, "These discriminatory practices to influence editorial decisions and news coverage policies are acts of corruption. They have to disappear and make room for the respect for freedom of expression and of the press that must prevail."

In addition to this development there have been death threats to one of the newspaper's columnists, Francisco Reynoso, and slogans have appeared on city street signs and flyers by the self-styled organization "Voices For The Truth" demanding "ethics in the news media," including the newspaper Imagen de Zacatecas, television channel TV Azteca and the newspaper NTR, whose editor, Enrique Laviada, and his family have also been threatened.

Last March remarks made by Imagen de Zacatecas editor-in-chief Eugenio Mercado in an interview with the Mexico City magazine Emeequis on the issue of security and the prevailing climate of fear in Zacatecas angered state governor, Amalia García, who consequently ordered cancellation of the advertising contract with the newspaper, an action later copied by autonomous state agencies.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, urged the Zacatecas state officials to "abandon the use of the placement of official advertising as a means of coercion" and referred to Principles 6 and 7 of the IAPA-inspired Declaration of Chapultepec which maintains that "the media and journalists should neither be discriminated against nor favored because of what they write or say" and that ". . . the assigning of radio and television frequencies and the granting or withdrawal of government advertising may not be used to reward or punish the media or individual journalists."

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