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Leaders in Baja California, Mexico boycott papers after claiming to be victims of defamation

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today (13 March 2015) expressed solidarity with Mexico's Grupo Healy newspaper group and condemned a media campaign initiated by the Baja California State Governor to discredit three of its newspapers that had published reports about wrongdoing in the state government.

Governor Francisco Vega de Lamadrid and the mayors of five cities in the state published an announcement in local and national Mexican newspapers, claiming to be victims of blackmail and of defamatory reports by the Grupo Healy newspapers. They stated that in reprisal they would stage a commercial boycott of those papers.

This came after the newspapers La Crónica in Mexicali, Frontera in Tijuana and Frontera Ensenada in Ensenada, belonging to Grupo Healy, published a series of reports on the precarious economic and social situation in the state, and in particular on certain properties acquired by the governor during his term in office and his refusal to provide information about them.

IAPA President Gustavo Mohme expressed the organization's solidarity with Grupo Healy. "This campaign to discredit," he said, "shows that the newspapers are doing their job rather well."

Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, condemned the commercial boycott which he said takes "a special dimension" when the one carrying it out is the very government, "constituting an unlawful and illicit action with irreparable aggravating circumstances by its being the government itself that contravenes constitutional principles, going against private property, and limiting the public's right to know about matters regarding the public administration."

Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, added, "State officials forget that their mandate and responsibility requires them to administer the assets of others with full transparency and inform in due time, rapidly and efficiently, as required under Mexican law on access to public information, without even the need for anyone to request it."

Grupo Healy rejected the complaints and said in an editorial by its president and editor-in-chief, Juan Fernando Healy, that "we do not extort, we report."He added, "We defend the right to freedom of expression, not because we feel it gives us the power to say what we want, but to communicate to the people what we believe is important for the development of a more plural, participative and democratic society."

The IAPA and Grupo Healy both felt that the announcement and the incitement by the Baja California government violate the Declaration of Chapultepec subscribed by the government of Mexico, whose Principle #10 states that "no news medium nor journalist may be punished for publishing the truth or criticizing or denouncing the government."

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