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Mexican state restricts media access to criminals

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today protested against the inclusion of a clause in the Law of the State Attorney's Office in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, stating it is a serious act of censorship that limits news coverage by the media in matters of public interest.

On July 30 the Sinaloa Congress unanimously approved changes to the law, among them a new Article 51-B that prohibits news media from accessing crime scenes and photographing, recording or filming criminals.

While similar dispositions are contemplated in other laws, the seriousness in this one is that it prevents officials from making statements or giving interviews, while limiting information to the Attorney General's Office's press releases, with the excuse that “this complies with the requirements set out by the laws concerning transparency.”

The new clause entered into effect immediately after its release in the evening edition of the state government's official gazette.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared, “These restrictions amount to a clear censorship of news coverage in matters of great public interest.”

National press organizations, media and academics have also condemned this new legal mandate for limiting freedom of the press and of expression. Several members of Congress responded to the criticism by promising to overthrow the new clause in an extraordinary legislative session to be held on August 21.

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, said that the IAPA will remain alert to the promise that this new censorship disposition will be eliminated, as it contradicts the Mexican national Constitution.

In 2011 the IAPA had pronounced itself against the Sinaloa Congress' intentions to pass a law on protection of journalists which, despite its good intents, included the requirement that news investigations had to be registered - an act that ran counter to secrecy of sources, journalistic independence and other aspects of freedom of the press and of expression.

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