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Series of attacks on critical Mexican weekly span physical and digital worlds

Original and parody versions of Luces del Siglo cover 565
Original and parody versions of Luces del Siglo cover 565

ARTICLE 19

ARTICLE 19 has learned that an altered version of issue 565 of the weekly Luces del Siglo, which is based in the municipality of Benito Juárez (Cancún) in Quintana Roo, was distributed in early September 2014.

Luces del Siglo is a publication that is critical of the public administration in Quintana Roo, and which has had false covers made of their publication 35 times – 30 times for the digital version and five for the printed version.

The original cover of issue 565, distributed on 1 September, contains a report on the violent removal of people living in the indigenous community of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, who were demanding access to clean drinking water. The altered version talked about the supposed economic growth in Quintana Roo in the days since Governor Roberto Borge released his third report.

According to Norma Madero, president of the weekly, the false cover is being shared via a fake email from Luces del Siglo, telling readers not “to be fooled” by the original cover.

Since May of this year, ARTICLE 19 has documented a trend of these false versions of Luces del Siglo covers. “We can confirm that this situation has put journalistic work of the weekly and its partners at risk, as evidenced by a lack of guarantees for free expression in Quintana Roo,” said Darío Ramírez, Director for ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America.

The false digital version of issue 565 appeared less than a week after a federal judge in Quintana Roo decided that the Director of the Institute for Public Defense, of the State Judiciary, Lino Magos, should “refrain from circulating” false covers of the weekly and “stop sharing defamatory, insulting and accusatory messages” against the publication.

Lino Magos is one of the main group of people who have been sharing the false cover pages of Luces del Siglo on Twitter. This caused Madero to ask for a decision against the official and lead her to file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office, which is responsible for investigating who is behind the fake covers and their distribution.

ARTICLE 19 has documented, since 2007, a total of 38 incidents involving free expression in Quintana Roo. Of this total, 22 took place in 2014. The majority were cases of physical attacks and threats against the media and journalists critical of the state administration.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the constant harassment of Luces del Siglo. In addition to the false versions of its cover pages, the weekly's Twitter account was hacked, their news vendors have been threatened, numerous copies of the weekly have been bought up and withheld from circulation and their reporters have been physically attacked. All of these incidents have been reported to authorities.

Interference, direct or indirect, in information distributed by the media, including obstacles to the free flow of information, violates freedom of expression. This is laid out in principles 13 and 5 of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Attorney General's Office to speed up investigations into the incidents involving Luces del Siglo and to ensure both the free dissemination of the weekly and that the punishment in this case will ensure that it is not repeated.

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