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Controversy over Mexican governor's award for free expression

Two cases have rightly fuelled the controversy about a decision to award Veracruz state governor Javier Duarte a prize for his supposed “commitment in the service of freedom of expression.”

The first is the 38-year jail sentence that a man has just received for Proceso correspondent Regina Martínez's April 2012 murder in Veracruz state. The second is Verónica Danell's dismissal as Megacable TV presenter, which she has blamed on pressure from the governor.

“More than this questionable award to governor Javier Duarte is needed to eclipse the problems of journalists in Veracruz state, which has become one of the epicentres of violence against media personnel,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“A total of nine journalists have been killed and one has disappeared in this state since the start of 2010, while many others have fled after repeated threats or harassment, often blamed on the authorities themselves. We join the staff of Proceso in demanding that every effort be made to shed light on the murders of Regina Martínez and the other journalists by means of an investigation involving the federal authorities and organizations that defend freedom of information.”

Jorge Antonio “El Silva” Hernández, an illiterate man with the AIDS virus who was arrested in October 2012, was convicted yesterday of Martínez's murder with unprecedented speed by a court in Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz, and was sentenced to 38 years and 60 days in prison.

The judges ruled that Hernández, who allegedly confessed to participating in the murder, “did not provide evidence of his innocence.” According to Proceso, Hernández said he was tortured and threats were made against his family in order to force him to confess.

Reporters Without Borders notes that use of torture, which has no place in a country that respects the rule of law, was also alleged in two other very rare convictions for murdering journalists – the October 2006 murder of US cameramen Brad Will in Oaxaca and the April 2007 murder of Televisa correspondent Amado Ramírez in Acapulco.

In each of these two case, the only suspect was quickly arrested and signed a confession after being mistreated and after being denied the right to be presumed innocent until convicted.


Verónica Danell, who is also a correspondent for the newspaper Excelsior and Cadena Tres TV, was fired as "Mega Noticias" presenter yesterday without any compensation after clearly annoying the Veracruz authorities and representatives of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

She referred on the air to a video showing President Enrique Peña Nieto confusing Xalapa, the state capital, with the port city of Veracruz. She also reported comments about Governor Duarte's physique and the supposed financial problems of Xalapa mayor Elizabeth Morales.

Danell, who defines herself as “uncontrollable,” said she thought she was fired “on the governor's orders.”

“This accusation demands a clear response from Governor Duarte and the Megacable management,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Firing a journalist in such a way does not meet the standards of freedom of expression that the Veracruz authorities claim to respect.”

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