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Mexico March 14, 2006
H.E. Vicente Quesada Fox
Residencia Official de los Pinos
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec
11850 Mexico, D.F.
Fax: (011.52.5) 515-5729
We of the Overseas Press Club of America have watched with great sorrow the appalling numbers of homicides and violent threats against our colleagues in Mexico by gangs and drug traffickers. Among the terrible consequences has been a silencing of free expression in much of the Mexican press.
We are, therefore, much encouraged to see that crimes against journalists will now be prosecuted by the federal authorities, and that your government has appointed a special prosecutor, David Vega Vera, to monitor the investigation of these crimes.
According to Reporters Without Borders, 16 journalists have been assassinated in Mexico in the last six years, six of them in Tamaulipas, including the editor of El Manana of Nuevo Laredo, who was killed two years ago. None of these cases has resulted in a prosecution or even a serious investigation. In February, a blatant assault on the office of El Manana, resulting in much damage and seriously wounded one reporter. The event emphatically demonstrated the need for a new approach to protecting Mexico ‘s journalists.
We understand that the new special prosecutor will not actually prosecute cases if they involve organized crime and drug traffickers. This is somewhat puzzling. These cases will be handled by the office of José Luis Vasconcelos, deputy prosecutor for organized crime in the attorney general’s office; Sr. Vega Vera will coordinate and oversee these prosecutions. Whatever the actual roles of the federal officers, we can hope that the transfer of prosecutions of crimes against journalists from state to federal authorities will result in some real action, at last.
It is also encouraging to learn that the new prosecutor will be able to investigate the case of Lydia Cacho, a journalist who wrote a book about networks of pedophiles and child pornographers. She was subsequently arrested, allegedly as a result of a plot by the governor of Puebla, Mario Marin, and a businessman. Perhaps Sr. Vega Vera will also be able to investigate cases such as that of Angel Mario Ksheratto, a journalist in Chiapas, who has been arrested three times in the last three years, mostly recently in February, for the “crime” of accusing a public official of spending public funds on a private house. He faces up to five years in prison for libel.
It is time that insults to public officials and business leaders cease to be a criminal offense. Most Latin American countries still have “insult” (“desacato”) laws, but they are rarely used, except in Cuba. Argentina and Paraguay have eliminated their desacato laws, as urged by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 1994. These laws are an anachronistic remnant of the days when kings had divine rights. We hope that the efforts in Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies to reform the press law will be successful, especially with regard to decriminalizing defamation and calumny. These offenses belong in the civil, not the criminal, courts.
The Overseas Press Club, which has been defending the freedom of the press around the world for nearly seven decades, is hopeful that the measures taken by your government will result in effective prosecution of crimes against the press, make journalism safer and allow journalists to express themselves freely without fear of violence.
Freedom of the Press Committee
Olga María del Carmen Sánchez C.
Ministra, Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación
Pino Súarez, No.2, Colonia Centro
Fax: (011.525.55) 522-0152
Genaro David Góngora Pimentel
Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación
Pino Súarez, No.2, Colonia Centro
Fax: (011.525.55) 522-0152
Carlos Alberto de Icaza Gonzalez
Ambassador of Mexico to the U.S.A.
Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington , DC 20006
Fax: (202) 728-1698
Ambassador Enrique Beriuga
Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations
2 United Nations Plaza, 28th floor
New York , NY 10017
Fax: (212) 688-8862
Antonio O. Garza, Jr.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico
Embassy of the United States of America
P.O. Box 9000
Brownsville , TX 78520
Fax: (011.52.55 ) 5080-2005
Patricia Mercado Sanchez
Editor – International
Mr. Alberto Ibargüen
Miami Herald Publishing Company
One Herald Plaza
Miami, FL 33132
Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz
El Universal of Mexico City
Bucareli N° 8 Col. Centro
Delegación Cuauhtémoc C.P. 06040
Sr. Ramón Darío Cantú Deándar
Fax: (011.52.5) 714-8797
Carmen Lira Saade
Av. Cuauhtémoc 1236 Col. Santa Cruz Atoyac
México D.F., C.P. 03310
Lcda. Rosario Robles
Presidenta, Partido de la Revolución Democrática
Huatusco # 37 5o. piso
Col. Roma Sur
Fax: (011.525.55) 207-1200