April update: Violence against journalists continues

April is shaping up to be a bad month for journalists in Mexico.

OAXACA — At the beginning of the month, two presenters for a community radio station in San Juan Copala, Oaxaca state, in southeast Mexico, were shot dead when traveling on the highway connecting Joya del Mamey to Putla de Guerrero.

The dead, Felicitas Martínez Sánchez and Teresa Bautista Merino were both in their early twenties and worked for La Voz que Rompe el Silencio (The Voice That Breaks the Silence), a community radio station run mainly by young adults and teenagers from the Triqui indigenous community.

Four other people were wounded in the attack, which took place between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. (local time) on 7 April 2008, according to information released by the Centro de Apoyo Comunitario Trabajando Unidos A.C. (CACTUS) – a civil society organisation that works in the area.

CACTUS human rights work coordinator Omar Esparza indicated that “the group had gone out to do reporting and interview people. They were indigenous reporters carrying out a task assigned by the community authorities.”

The attack was condemned by Reporters Without Borders, Article 19 and AMARC – the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters. All three NGOs called for a clarification of the events of that day, protection of the survivors, punishment of the perpetrators and an end to impunity for people who commit crimes against journalists in Mexico in a joint statement.

Cacho and Aristegui (behind) were flanked by five policeman on each sidePUEBLA – In the same week, the launch of Lydia Cacho’s book was obstructed in the city of Puebla, the capital of the state of the same name, which is governed by Mario Marin – the state governor implicated in her book about a paedophile ring in Cancun.

Cacho, who launched the book ‘Memorias de una infamia’ in Mexico City earlier this year (pictured), launched the book in Puebla on April 5th. Prior to its launch, a billboard advertising the book was taken down by state police.

Norma Bautista, communications chief for Random House Mondadori publishers, told “El Universal” newspaper that, on 14 March, her company erected a billboard in the city of Puebla to advertise the book’s publication.

“We were later told that the advertisement had been removed because the structure was unsafe,” said Bautista. However, the billboard structure remained in place; only the advertisement had been removed and replaced with another.”

El Universal also reported that Cacho alleged Marin launched a campaign of intimidation prior to the launch of the book.

SINALOA – Finally, the conviction of four men for the 2004 murder of photographer Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández was welcomed by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

Rodríguez was gunned down in front of his family in a cafeteria in the town of Escuinapa on November 28, 2004. The 35-year-old photographer worked for the Mazatlán edition of the newspaper El Debate.

Armed men approached Rodríguez when he was eating with his wife and sons, 3 and 6, and opened fire, according to The Associated Press and local news reports. He was shot at least five times, news reports said.

But freelance journalist and organized crime reporter Michel Marizco, who covers the Mexican border with the United States through his site BorderReporter.com, sees it another way.

He says, in a column for The News here in Mexico which is also published here on his website, that the 11 years sentences handed down to former police chief Abel Enríquez Zavala and the three hitmen working for police at the time – Pedro Salas Franco, Francisco Pineda Sarmiento, and Elías Álvarez González – is a sad reflection of how Mexico has receded over the last few years.

“Rodriguez is dead but I hope his case stays alive. First, because 11 years for a pre-meditated murder is inexcusable. Secondly, his killing shows that there is no battle being waged between good and evil, security forces versus criminals. The line between the two blurred long ago.

“It’s now indistinguishable.”

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