Mexican Journalists Still Under Siege in 2008
by Frontra NorteSur
Posted on April 21, 2008
Despite the creation of a special federal prosecutor and protests from virtually all international press organizations, new attacks against journalists in Mexico continue to mount while old ones go unpunished. Two young radio announcers from the southern state of Oaxaca are the latest journalists to suffer violent deaths. Felicitas Martinez, 22, and Teresa Bautista, 24, were shot to death in an ambush April 7 while on their way to cover a state meeting of indigenous peoples. Four other persons were wounded in the attack, including two young children aged 2 and 3. As of April 19, no suspects had been arrested for the crimes.
Indigenous Triquis, Martinez and Bautista were announcers for the “The Voice that Breaks the Silence” community radio station in San Juan Copala, a town which has enjoyed autonomous status since early 2007. Outspoken commentators in a region riddled with social conflicts, Martinez and Bautista allegedly suffered threats before their murders. “Some people think we are very young to know, but they should know we are very young to die,” Martinez and Bautista reportedly said on the air shortly before their deaths.
Alfonso Ortiz, radio station coordinator, blamed a group connected with the PRI state government of Ulises Ruiz for the killings of his colleagues. Ortiz also accused the state government of attempting to bribe family members of Martinez and Bautista into silence. Oaxaca State Secretary Manuel Garcia Corpus, who earlier met with the victims’ survivors, said a truce was necessary between warring political factions in the region.
Oaxaca State Attorney General Evencio Martinez (no known relation to the victim) said the radio announcers were in the wrong place at the wrong time. “What's clear from the preliminary investigation is that the attack wasn’t against them, but against the person who was driving the vehicle,” Martinez said. The presumed target of the attack, in the state attorney general’s view, was Faustino Vasquez, a local government employee who was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to his left arm.
Earlier, the San Juan Copala radio station demanded that Mexico’s Office of the Federal Attorney General take over the murder investigation.
The Martinez-Bautista murders were condemned by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mexican Episcopal Conference and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), among other organizations.
AMARC representative Aleida Calleja said Mexico was already dangerous territory for communicators but that the murders of the two young indigenous women “added to it.” In a statement, the UN’s human rights ombudsman contended that “only through the effective clarification” of the Martinez-Bautista slayings will similar attacks against journalists and social communicators be prevented.
Mexico´s official human rights commission is investigating the Oaxaca murders, while the AMARC has announced it will dispatch an international investigative delegation to the country between April 21-25.
In northern Mexico, another media outlet has also suffered aggressions.
Readers of the daily El Cinco newspaper in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, have had a difficult time getting the news lately because of an escalating wave of intimidation that culminated April 16 in the kidnapping of the paper’s pressman by alleged members of the Tamaulipas state police force.
Quoted in the Apro news service, El Cinco’s management added that other workers were threatened with guns. Copies of the paper which managed to make it onto the streets were then reportedly bought out by unnamed individuals offering higher-than-normal prices to vendors. There was no immediate word of the fate of the kidnapped pressman. Prior to the armed invasion of the printing facility, editions of the newspaper had allegedly been confiscated by state policemen at different intersections in Ciudad Victoria.
In the northern Mexican border community of Agua Prieta, Sonora, meanwhile, about 60 friends and relatives of murdered journalist Saul Noe Martinez staged a protest last week on the first anniversary of his killing, which like the vast majority of murders of journalists in Mexico remains unsolved. The editor of Interdiario, Martinez was kidnapped from an Agua Prieta police station by armed gunmen; his body was later found in the neighboring state of Chihuahua. Demonstrators demanded the speeding up of the murder investigation, and that Martinez’s name be cleared of allegations that cocaine was found along with his body. According to Martinez’s supporters, the substance in question was rat poison.
Speaking out on the Oaxaca murders, UNESCO General Director Koichiro Matsuura called the killings of journalists “an odious crime that causes great damage to society, since it suffocates the democratic right of the citizens to debate issues of common interest…”
-- Aguas/EFE, April 18, 2008.
-- Proceso/Apro, April 17 and 19, 2008. Articles by Pedro Matias.
-- Cimacnoticas, April 17 and 18, 2008. Articles by Soledad Jarquin Edgar, Susana Trejo de Jesús and Jessica Cecilia Martinez.
-- Pagina 24/Apro, April 17, 2008.
-- CNN en Español/Aristegui, April 16, 2008.
-- La Jornada, April 9, 12 and 17, 2008.
-- Articles by Matilde Perez U., Carolina Gomez, Ulises Gutierrez, Emir Olivares, Octavio Velez, and the AFP news agency.
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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