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IAPA outraged at murder of young couple targeted for using Twitter

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, September 15, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed outrage at the murder of two Mexican young people, killed in apparent reprisal for their exposure on social media of drug trafficking activities.

The bodies of a man and a woman aged between 25 and 28, showing signs of torture, were found hanging under a footbridge in Nuevo Laredo in the northern state of Tamaulipas on the border with Texas.

With the bodies, the identities of which were not immediately disclosed, there were placards signed with the letter Z - a reference to the Los Zetas drug cartel - containing threats and warnings that the same thing could happen to anyone else using Twitter to expose drug trafficking. This is one of the social networks the drug traffickers also use to disseminate information about their criminal activity.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, called on Mexican officials to "give as much priority to this case as to those of professional journalists who are murdered because of the work they do."

He added that "it is necessary to defend the right of people to make any statement, opinion or expression, whether through traditional news media or the new online media, and this defense should be a commitment that all of us - society at large and the press - have to make together. We are all aware of the importance that social networks have for the dissemination of thought and, as in this case, for denunciations and the transmission of information, for which reason they should be protected as genuine news media."

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, said that "the public anti-impunity and anti-violence agenda that the IAPA has had in Mexico for the past two decades includes a call for making crimes against freedom of expression - not only those acts committed against journalists - federal offenses, and that is why we must remain alert to such developments which, like this one, violate the people's right to free speech."

Marroquín and Rivard said that if the authorities allow crimes against those using social media to go unpunished "we will soon see the phenomenon of self-censorship taking over the sphere of the social networks, as has occurred with the traditional media in many areas."

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