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Mexican newspaper columnist receives graphic death threat in the mail

Threat received by Maite Azuela
Threat received by Maite Azuela

ARTICLE 19 screenshot

This is a translation of a statement that was originally published on articulo19.org on 30 November 2015.

On 25 November, Maite Azuela, a columnist for El Universal, received a death threat in mail delivered to her home in Mexico City's Federal District.

Azuela arrived home at about 5 p.m. and found a yellow envelope addressed to her. The envelope had no return address, but had a stamp dated 9 November and stamp from a post office in Obrero Mundial street from 11 November. Inside the envelope she found a copy of her El Universal staff profile picture with insults and death threats written on it.

Maite Azuela does work both as a journalist and as an activist, and her activism is directly linked to the issues that she writes about. Her articles focus on political rights and human rights violations, and recently have been about the Army, headed by Salvador Cienfuegos, and the Puebla government, led by Rafael Moreno Valle.

These threats against Azuela come after other incidents in the last two years, including in May 2014 when heavily armed Federal Police agents tried to gain access to her department at the paper, citing a “suspicious call”. They did not have a search warrant or a case reference number.

Azuela got in contact with the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) and with the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, despite her lack of confidence in both these institutions.

“I made reports to both governmental bodies despite the great lack of confidence I have in them. I want them to document what happened. I understand what journalists and human rights defenders must go through when they expose their vulnerability to those who are likely working for the people making the threats, rather than those who are the victims of threats. If we ask for a protection mechanism and an Attorney General's office, the least I can do is use them, despite their institutional weaknesses”, Azuela told ARTICLE 19.

ARTICLE 19 reiterates that authorities must conform to the highest standards in these matters, as outlined in the joint declaration on crimes against freedom of expression, where it is established that states must adopt special protective measures, ensure independent investigations that are prompt and effective, and ensure adequate reparations.

In addition, the organisation calls on authorities for a prompt investigation of the facts of the case, taking into account in their line of investigation Maite Azuela's work as a journalist. ARTICLE 19 also calls for the protection mechanism to take the appropriate actions to safeguard the physical safety of the journalist and her family.

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