Journalists Face New Wave of Attacks
by FNS News
Posted on August 13, 2007
Despite the Mexican government's repeated commitment to
respect freedom of expression, violence and other
aggressions against journalists continue to mount. In fact,
government officials are implicated in many recent attacks.
For instance, four young reporters who were attempting to
cover raids against street-level drug dealers in the city
of Monclova, Coahuila, were detained, blindfolded, held
incommunicado overnight and allegedly tortured by the
Mexican army last week.
The four arrested journalists were Manolo Acosta and Sinhue
Samaniego of the Grupo Zocalo print and radio news company,
Jesus Meza Gonzalez of La Voz de Monclova and Adalberto
Rodriguez of the local Channel 4 television station.
"They were held out of view and beaten while the (soldiers)
asked them if they were halcones (lookouts for the Gulf
drug cartel)," charged Luis Humberto Rodriguez Saenz, a
lawyer for Acosta and Samaniego.
Genaro Maciel, a Coahuila agent for the Federal Office of
the Attorney General (PGR), confirmed that the reporters
had been arrested on charges of possessing weapons and
drugs. Family members and colleagues immediately challenged
"If they had really been carrying bags of guns and drugs in
their vehicles, which were surely planted, they would not
have been tailing the operation," said Channel 4 journalist
Karina Borrego, wife of Manolo Acosta. "My husband is not a
drug addict and he would never carry a weapon."
Borrego pointed to "revenge" as the motive behind the
detentions of her husband and his fellow journalists.
Borrego and Acosta covered the beatings of workers and the
rapes of 14 sex workers by soldiers at clubs in the nearby
red-light zone of Castanos last year.
Verdicts are expected next week in the cases of eight
soldiers who are currently on trial for the attacks.
Additionally, Jose Luis Soberanes, the president of
Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has
announced that he will send a non-binding recommendation
about the Castanos incident to the army next month.
Two days prior to the Castanos attacks, Coahuila journalist
Rafael Ortiz disappeared. More than one year later, he
Informed about the August 7 detentions of their colleagues
in Monclova, dozens of journalists rapidly organized a
protest the next day outside the local PGR office. Bishop
Raul Vera of Saltillo joined other prominent voices in
condemning the detentions. Finally, the four arrested
journalists were released August 10 after each one posted
about $1,000 in bail. Prior to their release, the men met
with a representative of the CNDH, which could pursue a new
case against the Mexican army.
Contending that the state's case was riveted with holes,
defense attorney Rodriguez said he expected the charges
against his clients would be dismissed. The lawyer added
that he might press torture charges against the soldiers
involved in the detentions.
The Monclova Four were not the only Coahuila journalists
who experienced trouble with the government last week. On
August 6, five journalists were allegedly detained in the
state capital of Saltillo by the same group of soldiers
which arrested the Monclova reporters the next day. On
August 8, the day after the Monclova journalists were
detained, reporter Brenda Rodriguez of La Prensa de
Monclova was reportedly harassed by local police.
As Frontera NorteSur was headed to print, neither the
Mexican Defense Ministry (Sedena) nor the PGR, which
regularly issues press bulletins about drug-related
arrests, had officially commented about the Coahuila
On August 1, the Sedena released a summary report of human
rights training given to members of the military since
2000. Carried out in collaboration with the CNDH, the
training has become an integral part of military programs,
according to the statement. A special session covering the
human rights of women was attended by 1,033 military
personnel. All members of the army and air force have
copies of documents pertaining to human rights, the press
"By means of these types of actions, the Ministry of
Defense strengthens and consolidates a culture of respect
for human rights on the part of its members, in all and
each one of the activities they realize inside and outside
the military environment..," the statement noted.
In other developments, journalists in Oaxaca and Chihuahua
were the targets of new violence and threats. Alfredo
Fernandez Portilla, director of the Semanario newspaper was
shot and wounded by an unknown assailant early on the
morning of August 5 in the port city of Salina Cruz- just
hours before the Oaxaca state election.
Fernandez, who was accosted outside his home, was
transported to a local hospital. The shooting coincided
with the well-publicized visit of Amnesty International
Secretary General Irene Khan to Mexico. Fernandez’s
colleague, Edwin Meneses Santiago of the Noticias
newspaper, has reportedly received threats. An estimated
forty journalists protested the attacks in a demonstration
held in Salina Cruz this past weekend.
In Chihuahua, meanwhile, a state journalists' association
has demanded that authorities protect reporter Cecilia
Granados Montes of the El Sol newspaper. Granados filed
criminal charges against businessman Jose Talamas and two
Jimenez municipal police officers for illegal privation of
freedom and threats after Talamas and the policemen
allegedly confronted the journalist July 21 over articles
about a kidnapping Talamas supposedly suffered. Granados,
who denies being the author of the stories, accused Talamas
of nearly pulling a pistol on her before he was calmed down
by Jimenez's police chief.
"We have been warning for some time that we are putting
ourselves at risk because of the activity of organized
crime," said Alejandro Salmon Aguilera, president of
College of Chihuahua Journalists. "That's why we have asked
for guarantees from the authorities, not life insurance
policies, for those who cover the riskiest beats."
Jimenez Mayor Amador Moreno Lujan and District Attorney
Sandra Salas promised to thoroughly investigate Grandados'
When pressed about murders and other attacks against
journalists in recent years, many Mexican officials blame
organized crime. What's striking about many of the latest
incidents is the alleged involvement of government
Completed before the latest cases in Coahuila, Oaxaca and
Chihuahua, a review of 170 attacks against Mexican
journalists by a special commission of the federal Chamber
of Deputies revealed a significant number of incidents
linked to government officials. According to federal
Deputy Rocio de Carmen Morgan Franco, only 23 percent of
the cases were traced to organized crime, while 20 percent
of the aggressions came from municipal, state and federal
authorities. Deputy Morgan blamed the remaining attacks on
-- El Universal, August 11, 2007. Article by Hilda
-- Frontera/EFE, August 9, 2007.
-- Proceso/Apro, August 8, 10 and 11, 2007. Articles by Arturo Rodriguez Garcia.
-- El Zocalo (Monclova), August 11, 2007. Article by Alberto Rojas.
-- La Jornada, July 24, 2007; August 8, 11 and
12, 2007. Articles by Javier Valdez Cardenas, Leopoldo Ramos, Roberto Garduno, Hiram Moreno, and editorial staff.
--El Diario de Juarez, August 6, 2007.
-- Cimacnoticias, July 25 and August 9, 2007. Articles by Patricia Mayorga and Soledad Jarquin Edgar.
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
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