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Gun attack on Tacuarembó radio journalist's daughter; perpetrators swiftly convicted, imprisoned

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is an IAPA press release:

IAPA welcomes convictions for attacks on journalists in Mexico, Uruguay

MIAMI, Florida (April 8, 2008) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today welcomed the conviction in Mexico of the murderers of news photographer Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández, killed in 2004, and court action in Uruguay in which the perpetrators and masterminds of an assault on a journalist's daughter on March 29 were sentenced to prison.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, declared, "While we are aware that the conviction in Mexico will not bring the victim back to life, we are pleased that the Mexican justice system has brought those guilty of the murder to justice. We encourage the authorities to continue applying the same system of investigation, identification, charging and sentencing of those responsible for other so far unsolved crimes against journalists in that country."

Rodríguez Hernández was a photographer for the newspaper El Debate in the Mazatlán, Sinaloa state. He was dining with his young children in a small restaurant in the town of Escuinapa on Sunday, November 28, 2004 when a number of unidentified persons burst in and one of them shot him at point-blank range in the head and neck. He died on the spot. He was 33 years old and had worked for two years at the paper, where he was in charge of graphics coverage of local events.

On March 1 this year a court sentenced the former Public Security chief in Escuinapa, Abel Enríquez Zavala, to 11 years and five months' imprisonment on a charge of complicity in homicide, and Pedro Salas Franco, known as "El Cabezón" (Bighead), Francisco Pineda Sarmiento, a.k.a. "El Gordo" (Fatty) and Elías Alvarez González, also known as Benjamín Contreras Hernández with the nickname "El Benja" (Benny), to 11 years, 11 months and 18 days in prison on a charge of homicide. All the defendants filed notice of appeal of sentence.

The IAPA spokesman said, however, that his organization would be closely watching a separate appeal process initiated by the slain journalist's widow, María Teresa González Mallorquín, who claims that the sentences were not merely low but a mockery for the family, El Debate and other Mexican news media reported.


In another development the IAPA applauded the swift action by the police and prosecutors in identifying and sending to prison this week those who planned and carried out an armed attack in the early hours of March 29 on Viviana Aldabe, daughter of journalist Enrique Aldabe, host of the program "Micrófono Abierto" (Open Microphone) broadcast by Radio Taucuarembo in Tacuarembó province, 240 miles northeast of the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo.

The 22-year-old was attacked in her home by an individual who shot at her three times, one shot grazing her head. Following a swift investigation by the local police, two police officers were arraigned and sentenced to prison. They were José Enrique Navarro Ocampo, former deputy police chief in Tacuarembó, and Marcelo Heredia, known as "El Chino" (Chinaman), a former second-in-command officer in Montevideo. Navarro Ocampo was found to have instigated the attack and Heredia to have carried it out. Meanwhile, another person, Christian Marcelo Márquez, not a police officer, was sent to prison on a charge of having covered up the crime.

The attack came after the young woman's father had reported on his radio program that a local nightspot, "Black-Jack," which was run by Navarro Ocampo, had been fined by the state agency Child of Uruguay Institute for selling liquor to minors.

For further information on the Rodríguez Hernández case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92400/

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