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IAPA calls on political candidates to respect press freedom

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, June 8, 2010 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today voiced concern and issued a "call for sanity" in the political campaign prior to elections in the Mexican state of Sinaloa that has degenerated into attacks on the local newspaper El Debate and direct threats to its owners.

Jesús Vizcarra Calderón, a candidate for Sinaloa governor on the combined ticket of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the Ecological Green Party (PVEM) and the New Alliance (NA), threatened the owners of the El Debate chain of papers, Ildefonso Salido and his son Javier, saying that he would take action against them.

IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre, editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, said that in the run-up to the local elections on July 4 "we call for sanity and publicly ask the contenders to respect freedom of expression and show restraint in statements that could harden attitudes and give rise to violence against the press and to self-censorship."

Vizcarra, who claims that the newspaper favors the opposition candidate, warned its owners, through an intermediary, that "he isn't going to tolerate it any longer" and "they are going to regret it," which the two felt could be interpreted as a risk to their physical well being. The events were said to have occurred on June 5, the argument having arisen from a question put by an El Debate reporter to Vizcarra about alleged family ties to a now dead drug trafficker, following on remarks made by the candidate's mother.

Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, and chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, supported Aguirre, adding "precisely in a context of violence, the threats and the heated climate can serve to encourage those who resort to violence to act and restrict the public's right to information, exactly at a time when information is essential in order to make decisions."

In November 2008 the IAPA condemned a hand-grenade attack on El Debate in Culiacán, the Sinaloa state capital. In February 2009 the hemispheric organization also condemned a rifle attack on the home of the editor of El Debate in Guasave, Sinaloa, Moisés García Castro, who was not injured.

Sinaloa is regarded as one of the most violent regions in Mexico. According to local media, 950 executions were carried out in the first five months of this year, 130 in May alone, most of them attributed to organized crime and disputes among criminal gangs.

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