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Guanajuato government accused of discriminating in allocation of advertising contracts

(CEPET/IFEX) - The National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) has concluded that the Guanajuato state government, in central Mexico, has violated freedom of expression and access to information rights by discriminating against the newspapers "AM" and "Al Día" and denying or significantly reducing government advertising contracts to them. The CNDH came to the conclusion that these actions open the door for the use of state advertising to "reward or punish media outlets according to their editorial line."

In a recommendation issued on 29 September 2009, the CNDH addressed the state governor, Juan Manuel Oliva Ramírez, of the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN), urging him to ensure that government offices establish clear and non-discriminatory criteria for the allocation of state advertising and that these criteria be made public.

On 29 April 2008, the governor rejected a similar recommendation issued by the Guanajuato State Human Rights Prosecutor's Office (Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos del estado de Guanajuato). At the time, the governor argued that the state government's allocation of advertising was based on a communications strategy that was attempting to reach the most people possible.

The CNDH noted that there has been a drastic decrease in the number of advertisements awarded to "AM" and "Al Día", while the number of advertisements awarded to other media outlets during the same time period either remained the same or increased.

Enrique Gómez Orozco, general director and owner of "AM" and "Al Día", told CEPET that since 2007 the number of state advertisements the newspapers have received has dropped dramatically, even though they have a contract with the government.

The journalist believes that this is linked to a report published in "AM" on the Yunque (an ultra right-wing group to which a number of members of the PAN allegedly belong).

Gómez Orozco said that the discriminatory allocation of advertising is a question of censorship, prompted by the government's dislike of the papers' critical stance. Some papers receive a lot more advertising even though their circulation is much smaller, he noted, and the government's allocation criteria are not made public. He also said that, in addition to the complaints filed with the local and national human rights commissions, four months ago the lawyers for the company that publishes the newspapers also filed a criminal complaint against the Guanajuato government for damages.

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