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The right to freedom of expression of activists is threatened by homophobia, says ARTICLE 19

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 19 June 2009 - ARTICLE 19, together with local partner organisations in Mexico, is calling on the Governor of the State of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, to investigate several sustained attacks against Agustín Estrada Negrete, a special needs school teacher, and his lawyer, Jaime Genaro López Vela.

In 2008, Negrete, Director of the Centro de Atención Multiple, a special needs school in the State of Mexico, was pressured into taking a leave of absence, after he had appeared in a demonstration on the International Day against Homophobia in May 2007. He was threatened and suffered different forms of discriminatory behaviour after this event, partly because images identifying him at the demonstration had been published in the newspaper.

In February 2009, he returned to work after the designated break, only to be informed he would not be welcome back at the institution if he continued to be open about his sexuality.

On 8 May, Negrete arrived at the Office of the Public Prosecutor's office to argue his case. A group of supporters, comprising parents from the school, were refused entry and began a peaceful protest outside. Negrete and his lawyer, human rights defender Jaime Genaro López Vela, were arbitrarily detained and beaten at this time. Negrete was later imprisoned in a maximum security facility where he was beaten, raped, and held incommunicado until the following day. He has subsequently been refused permission to file his official complaint and has received little assistance from the State Human Rights Commission.

On 20 June, Mexico City will host its annual Gay Pride Parade and ARTICLE 19 is using this opportunity to call attention to the human rights abuses endured by many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and intersex people in Mexico.

Freedom of expression and equality are fundamental rights, whose realisation is essential for the enjoyment and protection of all human rights. This is a principle espoused in ARTICLE 19's Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality, which says that pluralism and diversity are hallmarks of free expression.

International law recognises that every person is entitled to equal protection under the law and ARTICLE 19, together with CENCOS and Agenda LGBT, believes that Agustín Estrada Negrete is being denied this right. We call on the authorities to protect Negrete, investigate the attacks against him and Vela, and ensure that their attackers are brought to justice.

We also call on the Governor to ensure that Negrete is reinstated in his position as Director of the Centro de Atención Multiple.

ARTICLE 19, CENCOS, and Agenda LGBT call on the federal authorities, in keeping with their international human rights obligations, to ensure a secure environment for expressing sexual diversity throughout the country. It is necessary to strengthen the bodies that have been put in place to fight discrimination, and also to raise awareness and build capacity among all state authorities dealing with sexual diversity.

"Homophobia remains a major issue in Mexico," says Darío Ramírez, Director of ARTICLE 19: Mexico. "The media also needs to be sensitive to the consequences of its coverage of individuals who may suffer huge repercussions from public exposure. The media must take an ethical and responsible approach to covering gender and sexual diversity."

The media plays a critical role in forming opinions and establishing social norms, and they have the ability to combat prejudice through fair coverage and the promotion of a diversity of ideas and opinions.

ARTICLE 19, CENCOS, and Agenda LGBT call on the national and local media to:

- Put in place effective ethical and self-regulatory codes of conduct which prohibit discrimination against the LGBTI community and which promote a LGBTI-sensitive approach to media work;
- Design and deliver media training programmes which promote a better understanding of issues relating to sexual and gender identity, homophobia and discrimination;
- Play an active role in combating prejudice against and misinformation about the LGBTI community.

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