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IAPA asks authorities to show more political will to end impunity

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, June 8, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today called on Mexico's federal and state governments to employ stronger political and legal will to deal with several incidents that have occurred in the states of Baja California, Coahuila and Veracruz involving the murder of journalists. The organization said it is urgent to put an end to the high degree of impunity that prevails in the country that is resulting in a deterioration in press freedom and free speech.

The IAPA believes the imprisonment of Jorge Hank Rhon, although for a crime not related to press freedom issues, raises the possibility of fulfillment by President Felipe Calderón, the Baja California state government, the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the pledges made to the organization to act on the resolution issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regarding the 1988 murder of Héctor "Gato" Félix Miranda, co-editor of the weekly newspaper Zeta.

The IAPA's opinion is based on a review of the case file demonstrating, as the organization previously made known to state and federal authorities, that there are indications of the possible participation, as masterminds, of more people in the columnist's murder, and that Hank Rhon would be one of the main suspects.

In 1997, the IAPA submitted the Félix Miranda case to the IACHR, which issued a series of recommendations to be complied with by the Mexican government, among them that "a serious, full, exhaustive and impartial investigation be carried out to determine the criminal responsibility of all those involved in the murder." A working group made up of IAPA officers and Jesús Blancornelas and Francisco Otiz Franco, both from Zeta, represented the IAPA in a 2004 review of the Félix Miranda case file. Ortiz Franco was himself murdered later that year.

The IAPA has insistently demanded justice in the case and pressured the authorities during some 10 visits to Mexico by international delegations which called for a review of the evidence that could implicate businessman Hank Rhon, suspected of instigating Félix Miranda's murder. Hank Rhon's chief bodyguard, Antonio Vera Palestina, and another of his bodyguard's, Victoriano Medina Moreno, were convicted of the murder.

In the most recent mission in Mexico carried out jointly by the IAPA and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in September 2010, President Calderón personally pledged to take up the IACHR resolutions.

In a dialogue with the IAPA, Zeta's current editor, Adela Navarro, thanked the organization for following up on the case, adding that it "gives us hope that it will not remain unpunished."

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, declared, "The Mexican authorities have to put forth their best efforts for justice to be done, because otherwise the principles of press freedom, free speech and democracy will deteriorate further."

Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, of the Mexico City newspaper El Universal and chairman of the IAPA's Impunity Committee, joined the call for Mexico's federal and state governments to stop other cases of murdered journalists from going unpunished.

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