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Mexican editor on hunger strike after paper loses official state advertising contract

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed today [4 December 2013] solidarity with Ildefonso Chávez, president and editor of the newspaper El Pueblo in Chihuahua, Mexico, who went on a hunger strike in protest against the withdrawal of official advertising by the state government in an apparent reprisal for his editorial criticism.

Through a phone call, after the IAPA received the news, Chávez reported that on December 2 he had begun a hunger strike in protest of the cancellation of the state government's official advertising in October after his paper had published reports on public debt and criticism of the governor's actions. The state body also told Chávez that it would not pay its debt to the newspaper for all the advertising placed there this year.

Chávez, who is staging his protest in a tent outside the government headquarters, said his hunger strike would go on indefinitely. He reported that his paper's Web site had been blocked out from government offices internet access and a “mud-slinging campaign” was being waged against him.

The IAPA, by means of the chairman of its Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, sent a letter to Chihuahua State Governor César Horacio Duarte Jáquez stating the following:

“Mr. Governor of the State of Chihuahua,

“The Inter American Press Association, on behalf of its 1,300 and plus members, expresses its solidarity with Ildefonso Chávez's protest, president and editor of the Chihuahua newspaper El Pueblo, in claim of the withdrawal of official advertising by your government and denial of payment of the debt owed to the media outlet. The placement or withdrawal of official advertising should not be applied to reward or punish media or journalists. As established by the Declaration of Chapultepec it is a practice that violates principles of press freedom and freedom of expression.

“In this regard, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, signed by members of the Organization of American States, establishes that “the arbitrary and discriminatory assignment of official advertising … goes against freedom of expression and should be expressly prohibited by law.”

“At the same time we echo the denunciation made to our organization by Ildefonso Chávez concerning a campaign to discredit him on social networks, and other kinds of aggressions that have been seen in the blockage of the newspaper's online version in public offices.

“Mr. Governor, we urge you to fully comply with the precepts of press freedom included in the Political Constitution of the Mexican United States by suspending discrimination in the placement of official advertising, a practice that is usually used – without taking into account technical criteria and those of effectiveness in the use of public resources – as an instrument to put pressure upon news media that are irritating due to their editorial criticism, and taking steps so that El Pueblo is not discriminated against by the public administration, and to investigate the aggressions of which this media outlet and its executives may be subject to.”

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