Freedom of Expression




132.  On January 18, 2002, Félix Alonso Fernández García, editor of the weekly Nueva Opción was shot dead in Miguel Alemán city, in Tamaulipas State (north-eastern Mexico).  According to information gathered, the journalist had recently reported in Nueva Opción on alleged relations between former Mayor Raúl Rodríguez Barrera and drug traffickers.  In 2001, the journalist had informed police of these relations.  A few days before his death, the journalist had accused the former mayor of wanting to kill him.[i]


Threats and Aggression


133.  On January 10, 2002, journalist Jesús Blancornelas reported that he had received death threats by e-mail from an unknown source.  Blancornelas, director of the weekly periodical Zeta, has been investigating and publishing articles on drug trafficking in Mexico, especially in Tijuana, a city bordering on the United States where a drug cartel is operated by the Arellano Félix brothers.  On November 27, 1997, Blancornelas was violently assaulted, causing the death of his bodyguard and one of the assailants, a gunman paid by the drug cartel operated by the Arellano Félix brothers.[ii]


134.  In February 2002, journalist Eduardo Ibarra Aguirre, the director of Forum magazine, reported that he had received telephone threats and that a robbery had again been attempted at his offices.  According to the information provided, Forum magazine had been the target of harassment following the publication of articles by General Francisco Gallardo Rodríguez.  On December 4, 2001, the magazine's offices were attacked, and the electronic files containing the articles published by General Gallardo were taken.[iii]


135.  On March 7, 2002, Fredy Martín Pérez López, a correspondent for the newspaper El Universal and the Italian agency ANSA, was assaulted by police officers in San Cristóbal de las Casas, as he was covering confrontations between the police and the indigenous population.[iv]


136.  On June 24, 2002, Irving Leftor Magaña, a camera technician for Telemundo, a local cable channel, was hospitalized after being attacked by members of the municipal police of Pachuca, capital of the state of Hidalgo (in the North).  He suffered a fracture in the left leg.  These events took place as the camera technician and another 20 reporters and journalists from different media organizations covered the action taken by the Secretaria de Seguridad against demonstrators from the Farm Workers' Union (UNTA), which minutes before had blocked the Insurgentes highway interchange.  The journalist filed criminal charges.[v]




137.  On April 3, 2002, the offices of the weekly periodical Páginas, in Tuxtla Gutierrez (Chiapas) was the target of gunfire.  According to the information collected, a number of individuals fired on the offices of Páginas, which is published in the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez (Chiapas), and threatened the staff.  According to the directors of the periodical, the attack could be linked to the periodical's critical tone in referring to the authorities.[vi]


Judicial actions


138.  On April 1, 2002, Raquel Urbán Hernández, of the weekly periodical Reporteros Informando, published in the city of Ecatepec (state of Mexico), was arrested.  The journalist was released the same day, after posting bail of 22,000 pesos (EUR2,800).  The arrest took place as a result of a complaint filed in January 2002 by Alejandro Gamiño Palacios, a legislator of the party in power, the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN), who charged the journalist with "defamation."  On November 26, 2001, Raquel Urbán Hernández had reported on the alleged implication of the legislator in a case involving the rape of a minor.[vii] 


139.    On March 11, 2002, María Esther Martínez, of the newspaper La Unión de Morelos, published in the state of Morelos, was arrested in the city of Xochitepec, Morelos.  According to the Independent Human Rights Commission of Morelos, a civil organization for the defense of human rights, the journalist, who was accused of defamation, was arrested after criticizing the Office of the Solicitor General of the State and the Ministerial Police.  She was released that same day.[viii]


140.  On May 8, 2002 Alejandro Junco de la Vega, president and publisher of the Mexico City daily REFORMA appeared before a public prosecutor in Mexico City to respond to criminal defamation charges brought against him by a local politician.  The journalist was charged over an article alleging that Carlos Galán Domínguez, a member of the Mexico State Chamber of Deputies, had received improper payments from the Chamber.  Galán filed criminal defamation charges against Junco and the two reporters.  If convicted, all three journalists could face up to three years in prison.[ix]


141.  In August 2002, charges were filed with the Office of the Attorney General against journalist Hermén Macías López, director of the newspaper Lo Nuestro, of the city of Cadereyta Jiménez in the state of Nuevo León, by Hilario Vega Zamapirra, union leader for Petróleos Mexicanos and alternate federal deputy for the Second District of Nuevo Léon.  The journalist was accused of defamation and sued for US$195,000 in damages and closure of the newspaper Lo Nuestro.  On 22 August, Lo Nuestro published a report showing that the union leader's parental lineage was not as he had claimed, i.e. that his family had been engaged in the oil business for generations.  Lo Nuestro had been following the activities of the union leader and how his personal fortune had increased as a result of corrupt practices.[x]


142.  On August 19, 2002, journalist Isabel Arvide was arrested by the Chihuahua state police on charges of criminal defamation.  She was detained for more than 24 hours and released after paying a bail of 100,000 Mexican pesos (US$10,000). Judge Armando Rodrígues Gaytán of the Second Penal Court in the district of Morales has charged Arvide with criminal defamation. According to Mexico's Criminal Code, Arvide faces six months to two years in prison if convicted. The charges follow a June 2 article by Arvide that appeared on the journalist's own Web site,, and in the daily, Milenio, which is published in Mexico City. In the article, Arvide accused Osvaldo Rodrígues Borunda, the executive director and publisher of the Mexican newspaper El Diario de Chihuahua, of involvement with drug trafficking and money laundering.[xi]


143.  On 17 October 2002, the Office of the Solicitor General of the State of Chihuahua requested that the judge of the Fourth Criminal Chamber, Catalina Ruiz Pacheco, order the arrest of the director and seven reporters of the newspaper Norte de Ciudad Juárez, who were accused of defamation by the former municipal president Manuel Quevedo Reyes.  The same day, according to an article published on 18 October by Norte de de Ciudad Juárez, Judge Catalina Ruiz Pacheco agreed to consider the possibility of issuing a warrant for the arrest of the director and seven reporters as requested by the Office of the Solicitor GeneralIn his suit, filed in January 2002, the former municipal president asked for damages in the amount of 50 million pesos and closure of the newspaper.  Quevedo Reyes filed a suit against the paper's director, Óscar Cantú, and reporters Armando Delgado, Manuel Aguirre, Guadalupe Salcido, Rosa Isela Pérez, Francisco Luján, Antonio Flores and Carlos Huerta, following the publication of an article entitled "Patricio's Invoices," and other follow-up reports revealing the alleged participation of Quevedo in the sale of 220 hectares expropriated by Governor Patricio Martínez.  In response to the charges brought by the Office of the Solicitor General, the accused journalists reserved the right to file a statement, after requesting copies of the charges filed by Quevedo, which were not provided to them by the officer of the Office of the Attorney General, Sergio Villarreal Arellano, who had issued the warrant for their arrest.[xii]


144.  Between March and November 2002, the Office of the Solicitor General of the Republic (PGR) brought charges against journalists from the newspaper La Jornada who had investigated cases of corruption by former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari and the diversion of millions of pesos in funds from Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) to the presidential campaign of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).  Among the journalists charged were Enrique Méndez, Gustavo Castillo, Rubén Villalpando Andrea Becerril, Ciro Pérez, Roberto Garduño, and Pedro Juárez Mejía, all of La Jornada.  According to the information received, the authorities' principal motivation for interrogating the journalists related to their investigations and sources of information.[xiii]


145.  On 16 December 2002, Francisco Guerrero Garro and Fabiola Escobar, director of and reporter for La Jornada de Morelos, respectively, were subpoenaed to testify by the Office of the Solicitor General of the State.  The subpoena was issued to inquire into reports published in that newspaper as part of the preliminary investigation conducted by the Solicitor General's Office in certain criminal cases.[xiv] 




146.  In October 2002, according to the information received, the state government of Baja California canceled official publicity in the newspaper La Crónica and hindered the access of journalists to public information.  After publishing reports on alleged corruption involving the Governor of Baja California, Eugenio Elorduy Walther, La Crónica, which is part of the Periódicos Healy newspaper chain operating in the states of northwestern Mexico, published several complaints about irregularities in recent months compromising the Governor: irregular purchases of vehicles, nepotism, and salary increases for government officials.[xv]


Positive developments


147.  On 30 April 2002, Congress approved the Federal Government Information Transparency and Access Act.  The law enables citizens to gain access to state-held documents and information.  The Office of the Special Rapporteur issued a press release welcoming this initiative, but will continue to monitor closely the implementation of this law.

[i] Reporters without Borders (RSF), Paris, January 25, 2002; Seccional Latinoamericana de Derechos Humanos de la Federación Internacional de Periodistas (FIP), Lima December 30, 2002; Writers in Prison Committee International (PEN) January 31, 2002.  Inter-American Press Association (SIP/IAPA), “Mexican Journalist Murder,” January 2002.

[ii] Inter-American Press Association (SIP/IAPA), January 17, 2002.

[iii]Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, March 1, 2002.

[iv] Reporters without Borders (RSF), April 9, 2002.

[v]Id. and Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (CENCOS), 26 June 2002.

[vi] Id., April 9, 2002.

[vii] Reporters without Borders (RSF), April 9, 2002.

[viii] Id.

[ix] Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), May 10, 2002, Inter-American Press Association (SIP/IAPA), May 8, 2002.

[x]Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción (PFC), October 7, 2002.

[xi] Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), August 19, 2002 and Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social, August 21, 2002.

[xii]Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción (PFC), October 23, 2002, and Libertad de Prensa, October 22, 2002.

[xiii]Sindicato de trabajadores de La Jornada and Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (CENCOS), November 18, 2002, and Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción (PFC), November 29, 2002.

[xiv]Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción (PFC), December 23, 2002.

[xv] Inter-American Press Association (SIP/IAPA), October 18, 2002.