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IAPA concerned over rise in violence in Zacatecas state and its impact on the press

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, September 9, 2010 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed its concern at the serious threat faced by news media from the prolonged increase in violence in the Mexican state of Zacatecas.

Recent public complaints in Mexico and facts reaching the IAPA directly indicate a breakdown in security for reporters and news media outlets in Zacatecas, in the central northern area of the country, where there has been a general increase in threats, kidnappings, extortions, murders and conflicts.

IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre, editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, declared, "We are concerned with what we see happening in Zacatecas, where the same pattern existing in recent years in other Mexican states is evident - where a number of journalists have been murdered or disappeared and news media have suffered the effects."

In a recent case, on August 18, persons believed to be members of an organized crime group attempted to force executives of the newspapers La Jornada de Zacatecas and Imagen de Zacatecas to publish a report against the Army.

Robert Rivard, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, called on the Mexican government "to organize a coordinated and comprehensive plan of action, including official agencies at all levels, to ensure the safety and unrestricted work by the press in Zacatecas and the rest of the country."

Aguirre and Rivard both argued that it is not enough for the state government to offer to station bodyguards at news media outlets. "First they should acknowledge the gravity of the situation and establish coordinated and forceful actions against the crime gangs to prevent impunity continuing to reign as it has up till now," they said.

In a number of activities in Mexico, the IAPA has for several years encouraged news media around the country to join together to create conditions that protect their profession: legal reforms that would make it easier for those responsible for attacks on journalists to be investigated and brought to trial, and a commitment to train journalists for reporting under high-risk conditions.

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