Saturday, December 9, 2006The following is an 8 December 2006 letter from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression to Mexican President Felipe Calderón: 8 December 2006 Su Excelencia Felipe Calderón Presidente de México Señor Presidente: As an organization representing journalists in another country in the Americas - Canada - who are concerned about freedom of expression around the world, we are writing to you to express our alarm and intense concern regarding the current wave of murders, forced disappearances, death threats, threats of other natures, and various other kinds of attacks on journalists and media outlets in Mexico. Among those recently killed are Adolfo Sánchez Guzmán (28 November), Roberto Marcos García (21 November), both in Veracruz state, José Manuel Nava Sánchez (16 November), Misael Tamayo Hernández (10 November), Brad Hill (27 October), Enrique Perea Quintanilla (9 August), Ramiro Téllez Contreras (10 March) and Jaime Arturo Olvera Bravo (9 March). As well, various journalists have disappeared: Michoacan journalist José Antonio García Apac's name is now added to those of Rafael Ortiz Martínez, Guevara Guevara Domínguez and Alfredo Jiménez Mota. Several other journalists, as well as many of those mentioned above, have received death threats: - Saúl Contreras and Rafael Saavedra, of "El Mundo" daily, of Córdoba; - the members of La Voladora community radio station, located in Amecameca, the State of Mexico, who on 30 August, received e-mail messages threatening their lives and physical safety; a physical attack was later made on the station; - Jaime Vargas Chablé, a journalist with "Por Esto!" newspaper, who was the target of a bomb attack in Mérida which reduced his vehicle ashes on 22 August. There have been other very worrying attacks on media outlets themselves: - the grenade attack on the daily "Por Esto!" on 23 August in Cancún - the armed attack by PRI sympathizers on 22 July against XEUBJ Radio Universidad; located on the campus of the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (UABJO), in the city of Oaxaca in the state of the same name; this attack was preceded by anonymous phone calls threatening to kill the journalists for their sympathetic coverage of the clamour of grassroots organizations demanding the resignation of Governor Ulíses Ruiz Ortiz; - acts of aggression and threats committed against Nandía community radio station and its staff, again by PRI sympathisers, in Mazatlán de Villa de Flores, in the state of Oaxaca; - acts of aggression and threats against the Calenda community radio station in San Antonino, Oaxaca. Other journalists, like Lydia Cacho, have been jailed, or have been confronted with legal harassment, like Ángel Mario Ksheratto, or police harassment, like Julio César Ortega Quiroz, for their investigative journalism. This is without mentioning the many journalists whose murders and forced disappearances, in prior years, continue to go unpunished - Francisco Javier Ortiz Franco, Manuel Burgueño Orduño, Alfredo García Márquez, Benjamín Flores and Víctor Manuel Oropeza Contreras - to mention only a few. We believe that the situation of freedom of expression in Oaxaca merits a special, integrated approach, given the magnitude and nature of the social conflict there, and the particular risks that journalists trying to cover it are encountering. The Oaxacan authorities have neither the capacity, nor, it appears, the will to carry out a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation of the actions which resulted in the death of US journalist Brad Will, and the wounding of Jorge David Jaramillo Velásquez, Miguel Dimayuga, Germán Canseco, Jorge Brindis, Gilardo Mota, Mario Mosqueda Hernández and Alberto López Cruz, during recent clashes between police a nd demonstrators calling for the governor's resignation. The use of firearms to disperse protesters puts the lives of journalists covering this conflict at risk. As well, disadvantaged sectors and grassroots organizations, such as APPO, are also demanding greater access to the media, more balanced coverage of the problems in their region and of their proposals for resolving those problems, and respect for their right to accurate information about the issues so deeply affecting them. We know that the above-mentioned incidents are unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg, and that attacks and threats - including death threats - against rural journalists, social communicators, and media outlets are all too often not even reported. We therefore respectfully urge you, Mr. President, to take decisive action to assure that journalists' and media outlets' right to freedom of expression, and the citizenry's rights to access to the media and to information, all be respected. Concretely, this will involve: - transferring the investigation of murder, death threats, and forced disappearances to the federal authorities, and ensuring that the federal authorities have the resources needed to carry out effective investigations promptly; this is particularly urgent in the case of Brad Will's murder; - investigate and bring to justice the members of the police, army, security services assigned to protect elected officials, public employees, and politicians at whatever level (municipal, state or federal) suspected of involvement in attacks on journalists and social communicators, or of covering up attacks perpetrated by other individuals or groups (for example drug traffickers) by allowing such attacks to go uninvestigated or unpunished, through either direct complicity or lack of action; - support community groups and grassroots organisations in their attempts to gain access to media, to make their voices heard, and to establish their own media, for example community radio stations; - ensure an immediate end to the use of violence to suppress demonstrations in Oaxaca, or indeed any other part of México; aside from the broader human rights violations such violence constitutes, it also puts journalists at risk; - ensure that public employees at every level take all necessary steps to protect journalists from death threats and physical aggression. One of the measures of a political leader is his or her willingness and ability to protect freedom of expression, including that of opponents during polarized situations. CJFE believes that no true democracy can exist where journalists and social communicators are, with impunity, killed or threatened. Guaranteeing freedom of expression must be at the top of your priorities if Mexico is to be considered a member of the community of democratic nations. This is your challenge. The world is watching, Mr. President. Awaiting your response, Respectfully, Arnold Amber President Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Anne Game Executive Director Canadian Journalists for Free Expression About CJFE CJFE is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world.
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