Freedom of Expression

Press Release 75/03


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Eduardo Bertoni, condemns the detention of journalist Humberto López Lena Cruz in Oaxaca, Mexico. On April 4, 2003, agents of the Ministry Police (Policía Ministerial) of the State of Oaxaca detained journalist López Lena as a consequence of orders of apprehension against him in the context of two actions for slander and defamation. 

According to the information received, the accusations were made by Deputy Juan Díaz Pimentel and Anuar Karim Said Murat Casab, brother of the governor of Oaxaca, who felt offended by statements made by López Lena related to issues of public interest. 

López Lena is the director general of “ CMI” (Information Media Corporation), producer of radio news program “ Contacto Directo”, “Encuentro” and “ Desde la Redacción”, as well as of newspaper Expresión . The Office of the Special Rapporteur is concerned about the fact that, in the beginning, López Lena was denied release on bond and remained in prison for several days charged with slander and defamation, until he was released on the evening of April 8, 2003. 

The Special Rapporteur recalls what is stated in Principles 10 and 11 of the Inter-American Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression:


10.     Privacy laws should not inhibit or restrict investigation and dissemination of information of public interest. The protection of a person’s reputation should only be guaranteed through civil sanctions in those cases in which the person offended is a public official, a public person or a private person who has voluntarily become involved in matters of public interest. In addition, in these cases, it must be proven that in disseminating the news, the social communicator had the specific intent to inflict harm, was fully aware that false news was disseminated, or acted with gross negligence in efforts to determine the truth or falsity of such news. 


11.     Public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society. Laws that penalize offensive expressions directed at public officials, generally known as “desacato laws,” restrict freedom of expression and the right to information.       

The Special Rapporteur added that “a detention ordered in the context of actions of slander and defamation is troubling because of the paralyzing effect they produce on those who want to exercise their right to freedom of expression.”  

Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
April 10, 2003 
Washington, D.C.