Tag Archives: press freedom

The Photojournalist who Disappeared: Manuel Gabriel Fonseca Hernández, ´Cuco´(Galia García Palafox, NUESTRA APARENTE RENDICIÓN)

This article appeared originally in the book, Tú y yo coincídimos en la noche terrible, a collection of essays about murdered or disappeared Mexican journalists, by Lolita Bosch and Alejandro Vélez Salas, published by Nuestra Aparente Rendición in 2012. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Photojournalist who Disappeared: Manuel Gabriel Fonseca Hernández, ‘Cuco’
By Galia García Palafox (Nuestra Aparente Rendición)

Missing Since September 2011: Mexican Photojournalist Manuel Gabriel Fonseca

Missing Since September 2011: Mexican Photojournalist Manuel Gabriel Fonseca

Cuco is the story about a boy who wanted to be a journalist.

He hadn’t finished secondary school but Manuel Gabriel needed to work to take money home. He got a job cleaning the house of Araceli Shimabuko, a journalist in his town.

Araceli stopped him from cleaning and set him to hand out the magazine she edited, Paisajes. He took a taxi every day from his neighborhood to the center of town. While she reported he distributed the magazine to government offices. It was the closest he had been to these two worlds: inside and behind the scenes at the town hall, a view from afar of its mayor, some press conference or other when he went with Araceli. Her secretary, that’s what some officials and journalists called him.

After work they ate something or met with other reporters. Manuel Gabriel was fascinated. He became friends with journalists in Acayucan, a town of 83,000 residents in the south of the state of Veracruz. He didn’t skip the opportunity of going with somebody covering an accident, a fire or a fight. Manuel Gabriel knew immediately what the news world wanted, especially when it came to the police blotter.

He started helping journalist friends collect information, making visits to the public prosecutor, taking photos. One day he came home with a newspaper in his hands. His parents and his brother, Ricardo, could hardly believe it: at home Manuel Gabriel was known as José and in the news world somebody nicknamed him ‘Cuco,’ and he had published a story. He was a sixteen-year old reporter.

From that moment on his parents asked him to take care with what he published. He mustn’t get himself in trouble.

Somehow he got hold of an old, roll camera. He took photos and he took the roll to be developed. From a cybercafé he sent photos and news to magazines where he had begun to work.

One day he went to El Diario of Acayucan. He asked to speak with its owner. He didn’t want to talk with anybody else. Marcos Fonrouge, chief editor, dealt with him. He had heard talk about him. He had read him. Cuco wanted work and there was a position open for a reporter covering the crime beat. The job was his.

Fights between drunkards, men who beat people, car crashes. Cuco covered those stories. “They all made him proud,” Fonrouge says. Night and day he looked for an exclusive. He took it for granted he would get it. “Hey, I have the exclusive,” that’s what he said to reporter colleagues when he met them. He spent nights in police stations or in the public prosecutor’s office to get the scoop. He got home early in the morning.

Don Juan, his father, remembers that some days he only used to come home to change clothes after a visit to the morgue, to get rid of the smell of a body. Other times they didn’t used to see him at home until dawn. “He used to get home when we were all asleep, at one a.m., two in the morning. He used to bring us memelas [akin to a tostada (hard tortilla) with savory toppings] and empanadas and he got us all up to eat,” says Ricardo, his little brother. “He used to tell us that he had seen dead people or accidents.” He used to tell, he tells. He used to arrive, he arrives. He was, he is. Everybody who talks about Cuco changes verb tenses. Not Cuco used to be, no: Cuco is.

Cuco liked the dead. On one occasion his boss sent him to cover a social meeting of lawyers. Cuco returned with photos so bad that Fonrouge knew that it was his way of telling him that he did not want to be sent to cover events that weren’t part of the crime beat.

After a spell at El Diario of Acayucan, Cuco went to El Mañanero, a new daily with five reporters and a circulation of three thousand issues. He graduated from film to a digital camera. He used to show it off to people who wanted to see. And he showed it off to those who did not want to see it, too.

Saturday 17 September 2011 was his day off. In the morning he played cards with his brother. Five peso hands. He didn’t have any luck at the cards. He lost.

Ricardo went to play football. Cuco went to El Mañanero’s offices to collect his pay. He spoke with his boss for a few minutes. He told him he was going to eat some tamales nearby. Cuco was always ready to party.

That night he didn’t return home to sleep. His father went to look for him. He did not find him. In the newspaper they were waiting for his Sunday stories. They never arrived. His phone went straight to voicemail.

On Monday his father went to ask at the newspaper. The journalists had begun to mobilize. A group went to look for him in a neighboring town where a party was rumored to have taken place. There was no sign of Cuco. Another group met in an ice cream parlor to decide what to do. One of them called a deputy prosecutor and they filed a complaint. They started to investigate: did anybody see him in the park with a friend on Saturday night? Another said that he had been at the morgue. Did a witness see him get into a car with a sandwich seller? It wasn’t a sandwich seller but the hotdog seller. Rumors and rumors. Criminal investigations. More rumors. Nothing convincing.

El Mañanero has a policy of not publishing news about criminal groups who might endanger its workers. Cuco had not published anything compromising. Maybe he saw something he shouldn’t have seen. Maybe they weren’t going for him. Maybe he opened his mouth too much. Maybe he fell in with bad company. More rumors.

 

Journalist Galia García Palafox is editor in chief at Milenio Digital. She has reported for news outlets in the United States and Mexico and graduated with a Master’s from the Columbia School of Journalism. This article was first published under the title, “Manuel Gabriel Fonseca Hernández, ‘Cuco’,” and is available at: http://nuestraaparenterendicion.com/tuyyocoincidimosenlanocheterrible/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=84:manuel-gabriel-fonseca-hernandez#.VANQzWSwLBw.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons. The MxJTP has a Facebook page: like it, here.

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José Armando Rodríguez Carreón, “El Choco” (Martín Orquiz of El Diario for Nuestra Aparente Rendición)

This article appeared originally in the book, Tú y yo coincídimos en la noche terrible, a collection of essays about murdered or disappeared Mexican journalists, by Lolita Bosch and Alejandro Vélez Salas, published by Nuestra Aparente Rendición in 2012. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Translator’s Note: This translation is dedicated to the work of past, present, and future journalists at El Diario de Juárez. PT

José Armando Rodríguez Carreón, “El Choco”
by Martín Orquiz (El Diario) 

On the morning of 13 November 2008, the best crime journalist in Ciudad Juárez, forty-year old José Armando Rodríguez Carreón, became headline news.

A little before 8am, El Choco, as the El Diario reporter was known, got ready to climb into a Nissan car owned by his employer. One of his daughters, 8 years old at the time, accompanied her father.

When he put the vehicle in reverse, an individual whose identity remains unknown walked up to him firing a 9mm pistol, emptying its chamber. The bullets broke the car’s windshield, hitting Armando in his body.

His body, lifeless from rapid blood loss, slumped forward, head resting on the steering wheel. His daughter was not physically injured.

In an instant began another story of impunity where justice, until today, has failed to shine.

Armando got the nickname of El Choco – because of the shade of his skin – while he at secondary school in his hometown of Camargo, Chihuahua. The day he died, he became embroiled in a story that grabbed headlines in El Diario: a fatal attack on two Chihuahua State Police commanders.

Nonetheless, from January 2008 and until his assassination Armando had already covered the news of more than 1,000 murders, an unprecedented escalating wave of violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. He had also covered other subjects like drug trafficking, corruption, and the infiltration of criminal organizations in government and police forces.

As with the majority of killings before and after that 13 November, the crimes against Armando languish unpunished, even though the Federal Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists (subsequently called the FEADLE) announced immediately that it would take over the case from state authorities.

More than three years and three different federal prosecutors later, Armando’s murder still hasn’t been investigated at the federal level, and it hasn’t been clarified.

In May 2012 the Attorney General for the northern part of Chihuahua took a similar position. Staff at the Attorney General’s office reported that the murder investigation file should remain in state jurisdiction and that Mexico’s federal government should not take over the case, even though there an open, parallel federal investigation existed.

Around that time, the FEADLE – the federal prosecutor’s office for crimes against freedom of expression – petitioned the public to come forward with information that could solve the Juárez journalist’s murder.

“Different justice department officials have traveled to Ciudad Juárez to investigate. Unfortunately, some members of the public – whether out of fear or ignorance about the process – refuse to approach us to clarify the facts.” So said Laura Angelina Borbolla, the new federal prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression.

In September 2010, the federal Attorney General and President Felipe Calderón announced the arrest of a person connected to the murder. But later it came out that the person under arrest had been detained for other crimes, that he had been tortured, and that even a year later no outstanding warrant had been issued in the journalist’s murder.

Armando was born on 18 June 1968 in Camargo, Chihuahua where he studied primary, secondary and high school. In 1986 he decided to move to Ciudad Juárez to continue with his professional training. In Juárez he studied for a degree in Communication Sciences in the Social and Political Science Department of the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua. He graduated in 1991. Even before graduating he had begun his career as a journalist. In 1987 he began work as a technician and then as a cameraman for Canal 44, where he specialized in remote broadcasts. In 1992 he worked as a technician for Canal 56 in Juárez, but then he became a cameraman for broadcast journalists, where he met his wife, journalist Blanca Alicia Martínez de la Rocha. In 1992 he began writing for print media and started working for newspaper El Norte, and that’s where he began reporting about crime. The next year, on 10 June 1993, he joined El Diario de Ciudad Juárez where he worked for two years, until 1995, until he resigned from the paper.

Two years later, on 21 August 1997, he returned to El Diario where he worked until his murder.

Journalist Martín Orquiz reports on crime for El Diario de Juárez. This article first appeared bearing the title, “José Armando Rodríguez Carreón, El Choco,” available at: http://nuestraaparenterendicion.com/tuyyocoincidimosenlanocheterrible/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=61:jose-armando-rodriguez-carreon&tmpl=component&print=1#.U1ALOeZdVmA.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons. He thanks Andrew Kennis for inspiring this translation.

 

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Unprecedented response to Mexican journalist’s murder (Patrick Timmons, CPJ Guest Blogger)

Unprecedented response to Mexican journalist’s murder (Patrick Timmons, CPJ Guest Blogger)

The disappearance and murder in Veracruz from February 5 through 11 of local journalist Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz remains mired in controversy.

In mid February, after Jiménez’s murder, a group of journalists traveled to Veracruz and investigated the authorities’ response to the journalist’s killing. On March 19, the group, called Misión de Observación, published the findings of its unprecedented investigation in a report called “Gregorio: Asesinado por informar” (Gregorio: Murdered for Reporting). Their report documented Jiménez’s disappearance and murder, the state’s ineffective response, and the less-than-supportive working conditions of his newspapers in southern Veracruz.

CLICK ON THE LINK ABOVE TO KEEP READING

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When the Zetas are Your Editors (Marta Duran de Huerta, EL TOQUE)

This article first appeared in El Toque on 10 February 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexcian Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Zetas’ Editorial Line
By Marta Duran de Huerta

– “Their press releases come via a sub-editor. The Zetas carefully monitor everything that is published and whose byline is on the story,” an exiled Mexican journalist reports.

“We are journalists displaced by violence. First they put a car bomb at the entrance to my husband’s newspaper. Later, I had to leave the state,” says Raquel Suma*, a Mexican journalist forced to flee abroad.

“I used to be the editor of a Tamaulipas newspaper, an area fought over by two of the largest organized crime cartels. To save our lives, my whole family had to leave,” she adds.

A survivor of several attacks, Suma explains “the Zetas are in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. The Gulf Cartel (Cartel del Golfo) is on the northern border. We used to think that we could be safe while the Zetas weren’t in the state capital. That nothing would happen. But when car bombs started arriving at the entrance to newspaper offices and at the big broadcasters like Televisa we exclaimed, “Holy shit!” That’s when we knew the Zetas had arrived.”

Organized Crime has a News Agenda

Raquel Suma is young and stands out for her investigative journalism in Mexico: “from 2010 — and as much as I was able — I spoke out on the media and in meetings about how the Zetas use the media. Here’s how things work: the Zetas call you by phone; they have all your numbers: cell, office, and house phones. They usually contact a reporter who speaks for the crime beat. They send a press release that can refer to any subject.”

She goes quiet, then continues her story: “They can also order you not to publish anything. Their press releases come via a sub-editor. The Zetas carefully monitor everything that is published and the byline the story carries. They check to make sure if you followed orders and published what they ask,” the journalist explains.

From her exile, this Mexican reporter specifies that if the Zetas find out that you didn’t publish what they wanted you to, “they round up the journalists and hit them with large, rough, meter-long pieces of clapboard with nails in them, just like a faquir’s “bed”. They beat you until you pass out. Zetas never ask. You have to publish what they want or “they order you.”

Seated, she begins to drum her fingers on the table. “It’s difficult for me to overcome the jitters,” she explains, adding: “At first they asked for news about police matters. Now they want news about their events: from baptisms, to first communions for their children. They want these things in the newspaper as if they were big news. If it’s useful to them, they even want coverage of citizens’ protests.

If the Zetas want a spotlight on the sporting achievements of some team or athlete who is part of their group, it has to be done. “Of course they don’t pay for this coverage. If there’s a confrontation between them and they don’t want anybody to know, nobody is going to publish a word. But if they kill one of their enemies, well, you have to publish that,” says the reporter.

Voice breaking, she continues with her story: “While I worked at the paper, I tried to avoid the Zetas’ instructions. So, if they wanted a piece of news to stand out on the front page of the crime section, I used to shrink it, and hide in the newspaper’s last page. I used to say, “They can’t kill us! Maybe that’s what enraged the Zetas,” she says.

She doesn’t go into details. Raqul Suma limits herself to explaining how she became filled with fright and had to flee Mexico, taking her children but leaving everything else behind. She is thousands of miles from home and has no way of going back. The young journalist continues: “As editor-in-chief, I had to call the newspaper’s owner to tell him what had happened. I used euphemisms but I told him: The kingpins want this thing… and he always used to say to me: You know the routine. Do what you have to do. So I picked up the phone and called all the editors from the other outlets to ask if they had received the same instructions, and if they would run what they’d been told to print. If everyone accepted, then we would publish it, too. Our families’ lives depended on that.”

Politicians Pay the Zetas

Raquel picks up her story where she left off. Even though the interview’s being conducted in a safe place, the reporter doesn’t stop looking around.

“The worst thing about the last two years is that politicians pay for protection from the Zetas. That means that journalists can´t reveal any scandals about local officials in cahoots with organized crime.”

 “We can’t even report on protests about the rise in energy prices, or a neighbourhood protest where residents demand resumption of their water supply. Nothing. Zetas have managed to make money in unimaginable ways,” says Suma.

What’s even worse is that Zeta’s have the backing of officials from the three levels of government: local, state, and federal. “They even have the loyalty of the governor, the public prosecutors, the mayors, all sorts of officials,” the journalist maintains.

“Reporters in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, won’t publish a thing – either for or against organized crime – save for obligatory news items. Conversely, on the border, all the news goes against the Mexican Army. There’s a marked anti-Army line and the Gulf Cartel is behind it. The Cartel even uses the media to attack the Army. But the Zetas do not. The Zetas are timely and snappier. They have it very clear who they are going to attack and who they will defend.”

“When you see some news from the south or centre of Tamaulipas that complains about Army abuse and the violation of civilians’ human rights, you can rest assured it has nothing to do with investigative journalism. That story won’t even be put together by the newspaper, but comes straight from the Gulf Cartel. Since 2009, one or other of the organized crime cartels has determined news coverage,” Raquel Suma concludes.

*Raquel Suma is an invented name. The journalist is under threat from the Zetas and lives in exile.

Journalist Marta Duran de Huerta is a Mexican sociologist who has published seven books. This article first appeared under the title, “La mesa editorial de los Zetas,” available at: http://eltoque.com/texto/la-mesa-editorial-de-los-zetas?fb_action_ids=291984727617323&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%5B814827085200141%5D&action_type_map=%5B%22og.likes%22%5D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D.

 

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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An At-risk Mexican Journalist in Exile Speaks Out About Veracruz

MxJTP Editorial Note
This open letter — written during the recent disappearance and murder of Veracruz crime journalist Gregorio Jiménez — is from Miguel Ángel López Solana who lives in exile outside Mexico after his brother, mother, and father were killed in 2011. López Solana is the surviving journalist of a family of Veracruz journalists. His father was MILO, Miguel Ángel Lopez Velasco, a well-known journalist for Notiver. His brother, Misael López Solana also worked for Notiver as a photojournalist. The following month, in July 2011, Notiver reporter Yolanda Ordaz was also murdered.
 As the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) Mike O’Connor (who died in December 2013) reported in 2011, the deaths prompted many journalists working in Veracruz to flee the state. The letter was made available to Frontera-List and was translated by Molly Molloy of New Mexico State University and editor of Frontera-List. It is being published with the permission of López Solana and Molly Molloy. PT  

To my colleagues in south Veracruz: 

This letter comes to you from Miguel Ángel López Solana, writing somewhere in the Americas where he lives in exile from the dangerous conditions that swept his family away in 2011—a crime that to this day has not been solved by Veracruz authorities.

From exile——

The intense and constant attacks on freedom of expression in the State of Veracruz continue to cause irreparable losses and suffering while the authorities act as accomplices in the crimes committed against our fellow journalists and publishers. We have seen how they fabricate witnesses through torture and violence and how easy it is for them to find any dead citizen guilty of any crime they wish and then shamelessly spread false information to smear the victims’ entire family. Seeing the harrowing crime scenes is never enough for them; they use whatever they can to defame the victims and their families.

In the next few hours we will watch as they concoct another lie to supposedly clarify the case of the missing reporter of Liberal del Sur and Noti Sur, Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz, who was abducted by a group of armed men. It looks as if the Attorney General of the State of Veracruz has everything planned and prepared, we could say they are just following the usual pattern. They certainly know everything about the victim and nothing about the perpetrator(s) of the crime. But the strangest thing is that the members of these special law enforcement groups set up to investigate cases of attacks on the press are always the same. Only the victims change.

And it is not the first time that Enoc Maldonado is named as the special prosecutor in an investigation of attacks against reporters and media outlets. He also was part of a special group investigating the case of the murder of Regina Martinez, our colleague from Proceso, and there is no doubt in that case that they fabricated witnesses through torture. Maldonado was also part of a special group in charge of the investigation of the shootout in the streets of Villarin, Veracruz, where a lieutenant of the Zetas Cartel was killed. We have no reason to doubt his experience in these sinister, but effective methods for obtaining justice. How can we believe a person with such a resume? Hasn’t he gotten this job through his skill at inventing lies? We can believe anything except that Enoc Maldonado is really good at his job.

In the case of Gregorio, I know from reports from colleagues that the police delayed more than a half hour in getting to the scene and that the only thing they did when they got there was to ask the name of the kidnapped journalist. Then they left. They did not want to spend too much time at the scene and they did not even ask the neighbors any questions. And this is the so-called trustworthy police heralded by the government of Javier Duarte de Ochoa? “Tell me what you brag about and I’ll tell you what you don’t have,” says the popular saying. Why are so many millions of pesos invested in security in the state of Veracruz, anyway?

Today once more, we demand justice and an honest clarification of the aggression committed against Gregorio Jimenez. We are fed up with the lies and tired of ineptitude and stupidity. Isn’t it enough that they call us “the fucking media” (“Pinches Medios”) as the Secretary of Public Security, Arturo Bermudez did recently. We know for sure that he has no respect for the press. But, what the government of Javier Duarte doesn’t know is that the journalists of Veracruz and of all Mexico “would rather die standing tall than live on our knees.” There are many of us now who have experienced and suffered these violent attacks. We as citizens do not deserve this evil and corrupt government with impunity its greatest ally, the government of Javier Duarte de Ochoa buying off our conscience.

From my exile in the United States, I offer my solidarity and support to the family of my fellow reporter, Gregorio Jimenez, and to each and every reporter in the south of Veracruz who are now suffering the same pain that we went through in our own port city (Puerto de Veracruz). It is a wound that has not healed and that keeps me far away from my loved ones. But my heart and my thoughts are with you.

Miguel Ángel López Solana.

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“We Demand the Return of the Kidnaped Mexican Journalist” (EL PAÍS)

This article was published in El País on 10 February 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

“We demand the return of the kidnaped Mexican journalist.”

By El País Mexico Reporters

– Colleagues from around the world show their support via social media for abducted reporter Gregorio Jiménez

Five days algo some gunmen took journalist Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz from his home in the Mexican state of Veracruz. His whereabouts have been unknown since then. Colleagues across the world have expressed their solidarity with his situation and that of local journalists whose reporting threatens criminal groups. Using hashtag #QueremosVivoaGoyo,  thousands of messages have flooded social media, demanding his freedom and insisting that the authorities fulfil their responsibility to find him using all the means at their disposal. In the last decade, 29 reporters have been killed in Mexico. No case has resulted in a guilty sentence.

Goyo Jiménez (40) works as a freelance reporter in the city of Coatzacoalcos – in southeast Mexico – for two regional dailies, Diario Notisur and El Liberal del Sur. But the outpouring of solidarity from the media has quickly gone beyond the state’s borders. On Sunday, messages multiplied on Twitter and Facebook, many of them directed at Javier Duarte, governor of Veracruz, and Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto. The messages called for colleagues to post pictures of Jiménez and videos demanding his release. Journalists have become protagonists in a news story demanding Goyo’s wherabouts, but they also want to stop the persecution and harassment of their colleagues. Pictures began to arrive from farther afield than Coatzalcoalcos: not only Juárez, Tamaulipas, and Mexico City… but also from Spain, Costa Rica, Argentina, Germany, the United States and Egypt.

This Monday, the mobilization moved from the web, pushing out onto the streets, particularly in some Veracruz cities. Coatzacoalcos, Xalapa – the state capital – and Veracruz, among the most well known places. The web campaign has not stopped and the hashtag has turned into #HastaQueAparezcaGoyo (Until Goyo Reappears), a phrase that distills the reasons for the protest. Whether on the web or in the streets, the campaign will continue even when the news is part of yesterday’s paper.

Periodistas de a pie, a grass-roots association of Mexican reporters, has put its resources behind the case. The organisation has distributed the journalist’s image on a red background bearing the words, “We want Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz back alive.” Journalists from Peru, Chile, Ecuador and El Salvador, among other countries, responded to the call. They posted photos of themselves beside Goyo’s image. The lack of safety for reporters is an endemic problem throughout many Latin American countries.

Argentine reporters at Infojus Noticias posted a photo of themselves with each member holding up the Mexican reporter’s image and a message of support: “We want Goyo back alive.” Carlos Dada, an editor at El Faro; Alejandra Xanic, a Pulitzer prize-winning Mexican journalist; Jacobo García, El Mundo’s correspondent; and Peruvian journalist Jacqueline Fowks, an EL PAÍS contributor, voiced their support for the campaign. Father Alejandro Solalinde, the Mexican priest dedicated to the protection of Central American migrants crossing the country to reach the United States, is yet one more person who has put his voice to the campaign.

Article 19 – an organisation that documents abuses and threats against media workers – issued a press release demanding that the Federal Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) must take charge of investigating Jiménez’s disappearance. The organisation also asked for measures to protect reporters in the area “after signs from a group of the region’s reporters confirming that, in the aftermath of Gregorio Jiménez’s enforced disappearance, adequate conditions do not exist to practice journalism.”

EL PAÍS’s team of Mexico reporters has joined the campaign with a video in support of Gregorio Jiménez.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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Officials Investigate Family of a Journalist Critical of Chiapas Authorities (Luis Pablo Beauregard, EL PAÍS)

This article first appeared in Spanish in El País. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Officials Investigate Family of a Journalist Critical of Chiapas Authorities
by Luis Pablo Beauregard (EL PAÍS)

–       State prosecutors act on criminal complaint about 2013 allegations

The Attorney General of the State of Chiapas (in southeast Mexico, bordering Guatemala) on Tuesday ordered V.S. to give a statement about allegations of extortion. The person under investigation is the sister of Sandra de los Santos and Patricia Chandomi, two journalists critical of state authorities led by Governor Manuel Velasco of the Partido Verde and the PRI. One of the accused’s sisters has called it “an intimidating tactic” since officials have only just begun to investigate a criminal complaint dated June 2013.

Sandra de los Santos edits the webpage Chiapas Paralelo, a leftist electronic media outlet. “The page is very outspoken. The truth is that they’ve tried to buy us off, but we haven’t been bought,” the editor said. This Tuesday the website published an open letter to the governor. The text of the letter states, “there are a series of irregularities [in the judicial investigation]. The point of this action is to threaten the freedom of expression of Chiapas Paralelo’s staff.”

Authorities called V.S. to appear because she could be linked to a June 2013 attempt to extort by telephone. On those calls she is supposed to have asked for amounts from 400 pesos (USD$30) to 1,500 pesos (USD$113). De Los Santos commented the allegations are “groundless” because the alleged victim has not filed a complaint. A third party, assumed to be the father of the victim, made the complaint. “The person who allegedly carried out the extortion can’t be found and bank deposits or payments to V.S. don’t even exist,” states the letter’s text.

The crime is under investigation by the Prosecutor for High Profile Matters, charged with pursuing political cases or those of great social impact. “What’s this case doing with them?” Santos has asked. The reporter says that her 34-year old sister is a domestic help, and works as a receptionist in a business: “she has nothing to do with the media” and she’s neither linked to politics nor social activism. The letter states that the prosecutor, Raciel López Salazar, told them that the investigation was just “a routine matter.”

Article XIX – an NGO that oversees global freedom of expression issues – issued an alert on 25 January for judicial “harassment” against the family of De Los Santos. “The journalist sees this action as attempt to pressure both the outlet’s and her editorial line,” read the NGO’s alert.

This case isn’t the first attempt to intimidate journalists critical of Chiapas’s government. During Juan Sabines’s governorship (2006 – 2012), officials tried to link Isaín Mandujano, a reporter for newsweekly Proceso, with an attack on another journalist. They accused him of attempted homicide. Under pressure from national media outlets and human rights organs, the state’s prosecutor had to withdraw the charges, admitting that no evidence existed to link Mandujano with the case.

In November 2010 authorities detained a young reporter named Héctor Bautista after they received an anonymous tip off naming him as author of “negative comments that attempt to undermine good government.” The public prosecutor tried to tie Bautista to thousands of images of child pornography. Bautista was in charge of the webpage Infochiapas.com, dealing with touchy subjects for state authorities: the inexplicable increase in Chiapas’s public debt – in a few years it went from USD$66million to USD$1.8billion. The young reporter spent 40 days in prison and was freed only thanks to pressure from civil society.

Bautista’s and Mandujano’s cases occurred during the preceding governor’s administration. At that time, Raciel López was chief prosecutor. In Manuel Velasco’s administration López has continued in the post despite criticism identifying him as responsible for the persecution of journalists and political adversaries during Sabines’s governorship. Among other things, he is investigating 56 former officials.

At the beginning of this month, El País questioned Manuel Velasco about this controversial person. “He’s one of my security officials. We are one of Mexico’s three safest states. He’s not there to persecute anybody. During my first year we haven’t gone after anybody,” said the young governor.

This unofficial translation has used corrected dates concerning the alleged extortion in June 2013.

Journalist Luis Pablo Beauregard reports for El País from Mexico. This story first appeared with the title, “El Gobierno de Chiapas investiga a la familia de una periodista crítica,” available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/01/29/actualidad/1390965135_877269.html.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

 

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Break-in at Home of Veracruz Photojournalist, Félix Márquez (RevistaEra.Com)

This news brief first appeared in RevistaEra.com. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Translator’s note: The significance of this story lies in the fact that it documents the third break in and robbery at the home of a Veracruz journalist during January 2014. Earlier in the month, journalists Gabriela Lira and Raymundo León experienced similar acts in different cities, suggesting a modus operandi, maybe even a strategy. As one journalist working in Veracruz told me, “Something fishy is going on.” PT

Break-in at Home of Veracruz Photojournalist
by Revista Era, 30 January 2014

– Early in the morning of 30 January 2014 photojournalist Félix Marquez´s home was robbed of computers, cell phones, and personal documents

Veracruz, Ver.- The home of a Veracruz photojournalist was broken into this morning, and robbed of computers, cell phones, and personal documents.

The robbery took place early in the morning, when the family noticed that the house had been broken into.

After reporting the robbery, the Naval Police took an hour to arrive. The Veracruz journalist already filed a complaint with the state’s attorney general, in the hope of finding out who was responsible.

This is not the first time that Veracruz media workers have been robbed in their homes of their personal equipment. The same happened to Regina Martínez, Proceso’s correspondent, who was killed in her home. The same happened to Andrés Timoteo, Notiver columnist and former correspondent for the Jornada, who currently lives out of the state.

A number of journalists working in the state have expressed sympathy for the photojournalist, taking to social media networks, demanding punishment for those responsible.

Félix Márquez is a photojournalist with Cuartooscuro, Associated Press, and a collaborator of various media outlets within the state, including Revista Era. He shot the photos of Tlalixcoyan that proved the existence of militia in the state. These photos provoked threats from the then head of public safety, Arturo Bermúdez Zurita, who said he wanted Márquez imprisoned.

PHOTOJOURNALISM BY FÉLIX MÁRQUEZ
– Tlalixcoyan joins the militia
http://revistaera.com/index.php/tlalixcoyan-tambien-se-autodefiende

– Urban militia, a new strategy
http://revistaera.com/index.php/autodefensa-urbana-la-nueva-estrategia

This news article was published by RevistaEra.com, a digital magazine from Veracruz, under the title “Asaltan casa de fotoperiodista #Veracruz,” available at: http://revistaera.com/index.php/m/7301-asaltan-casa-de-fotoperiodista-de-veracruz.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

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Ecuador’s Communications Law aims for Cartoonist Bonil (Soraya Constante, El País)

This article first appeared in El País on 23 January 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Ecuador’s Communications Law aims for Cartoonist Bonil
by Soraya Constante (El País)

–        Cartoonist must testify about a sketch of a break in at home of journalist Villavicencio

Seven months after its approval, Ecuador’s Communications Law – which Human Rights Watch considers “restricting press freedom” – has come into force. The first person to appear before the Superintendent of Information and Communication is cartoonist Xavier Bonilla (Bonil). An internal report from this agency alleges that Bonil distorted the truth and supported social unrest when on 28 December he published a cartoon in newspaper El Universo about a break in at the apartment of Fernando Villavicencio, a journalist and an advisor to an opposition lawmaker.

The cartoon appeared with the caption: “Police and prosecutors raid the home of Fernando Villavicencio and carry off documents alleging corruption.” The cartoon used Christmas as a hook to narrate what happened on the night of 26 and morning of 27 December, according to those affected and media reports.

In its first three months, the Information Superintendent has processed 52 cases, of which 20 have been resolved. The agency’s head, Carlos Ochoa did not provide more information about its operation, and what little is known about it is thanks to an interview he gave to Noticias Andes, a state news agency. “We don’t analyze cases publicly. We inform the parties in the dispute, and after a legal process we asses whether the law has been violated or not,” Ochoa told the news agency.

Bonil’s case has drawn attention because President Rafael Correa mentioned it in a broadcast on 4 January. On his show, La Canallada de la Semana [Weekly Roundup] he labeled Xavier Bonilla “sick, a hitman who uses ink,” and threatened to enforce the Communications Law. “We’ll file a complaint because now we have the Communications Law defending us. Otherwise, cartoonists who dressed themselves up as comedians will just spew their hate.”

The first working day after Correa made these announcements, the Superintendent for Information and Communication, Carlos Ochoa, asked newspaper El Universo for copies of the cartoon, and its author’s identity. As a result, the cartoonist and his lawyer went public about the process. Last Tuesday they replied to the Superintendent with a seven-page submission explaining different ways to look at caricature. “At base and in essence, it rests on exaggerating and poking fun at reality … it’s graphic, humorous opinion, so it’s as subject to its creator’s perspective as it is to that of the person looking at it,” states the text. The cartoonist also cited the press reports where he drew information for the sketch.

Bonil’s lawyer explained that the next step is an appearance where the parties present evidence and documents relevant to the case. The Superintendent has five days to schedule that meeting and then two days to issue a sanction, or archive the case. The new regulations for the Communications Law guide this process. President Rafael Correa issued those regulations at the beginning of this week, saying that they clarified parts of the Communications Law passed in June 2013.

The regulations – made up of 89 articles and 4 transitional provisions – go even further than the Communications Law in a desire to control content. César Ricaurte, director of the Andean Foundation for the Observation and Study of the Media (Fundamedios), worries about the control of internet-based media, something that wasn’t part of the actual law but now appears in the regulations. “Legally speaking, it’s schizophrenic: one part of the regulations guarantees rights, but another article restricts them. Article 2 doesn’t place controls on content created by citizens and legal entities on their blogs, social networks, and personal, business, or institutional web pages. But Article 3 says that all Internet media are subject to the law. So that means Internet-based content is subject to control.”

Ricaurte’s team has been working since 2008 on a register of restrictions to press freedom. Just in the last year they report 174 threats against journalists and communications media. “State officials carry out the majority of the threats, abusing the powers of their office, and the principal aggressor is President Rafael Correa. He’s seen as responsible for 13% of the threats,” Ricaurte indicated. “The president continues a stigmatizing and systematic discourse inveighing against journalists and the media. He’s described journalists in the harshest terms. On his Saturday program he identifies them by name and broadcasts what they look like. He does that after he receives criticism, or with op-eds he doesn’t like.”

Add to those threats rulings against the media, journalists, and editorial columnists. Fundamedios counts 42 judgments since 2008, with an increase in the number of cases imitating the judgment Rafael Correa won against newspaper El Universo. Correa asked for USD$40million in damages. Last year, a former judge claimed damages against a media outlet in the border province of Esmeraldas, claiming payment of USD$30million. “When the President won against El Universo, he asked citizens to seek judgments against the media and reporters. As a consequence, there’s been an increasing in using the justice system to quiet journalists,” Ricaurte relates.

Correa has railed against international media. In October he took to Twitter to accuse the magazine The Economist of lacking impartiality based on an article it published about Texaco-Chevron operations. This year he has done the same with the magazine Newsweek and newspaper the Miami Herald. The magazine raised questions about the state’s role in the massacre of isolated indigenous people; while the newspaper referred to break-ins at the house and office of opposition lawmaker, Cléver Jimenez, and his advisor, Fernando Villavicencio. This issue has become untouchable for the government.

Human Rights Watch’s report on the Americas published this week agrees with Fundamendios. On the Communications Law, the NGO confirms that it contains “vague provisions that allow arbitrary prosecutions and censorship.” The organization warned that the rules “opens the door to censorship by giving the government or judges the power to decide if information is truthful.”

Newspaper El País has also been the target of attacks by Ecuador’s government. Today, it attacked the newspaper for publishing an interview with Fernando Villavicencio who is now in Washington, weighing an asylum request. The Ecuadorean government’s principal argument is that large media groups work against progressive governments.

Journalist Soraya Constante reports for El País from Quito, Ecuador. This article first appeared in Spanish on 23 January 2014 with the title “El caricaturista Bonil, primer señalado por la Ley de Comunicación de Ecuador,” available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/01/23/actualidad/1390452426_870042.html.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a pro bono translation service to provide distinctive, quality Spanish-language journalism to English-speaking readers.

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Killing of Mexican journalist sparks human rights ombudsman’s investigation
 (Diego Cruz, UT Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas Blog)

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission will investigate the Jan. 23 murder of a journalist in Guerrero. It is the first killing of a journalist in Mexico this year.

Miguel Ángel Guzmán Garduño, an opinion columnist for the daily paper Vértice, was found dead in his Chilpancingo home after being robbed of his possessions, according to Diario de Guerrero. Authorities say Guzmán died from blows days before being discovered. The crime’s motive remains as yet unknown but authorities said the probable motive was the theft of electrical and domestic appliances and his car.

Guzmán was a primary school teacher, as well as a journalist. He had also worked as the head of public relations for the state of Guerrero’s public sector workers’ union (SUSPEG).

Independent of the motive, the CNDH insisted in a press statement concerning the case that the state’s obligation is to prevent acts that endanger freedom of expression.

“Federal and state authorities have the obligation to conduct a timely and effective investigation into threats against journalists in order to counter impunity and stop the deterioration of freedom of expression,” the CNDH said.

Mexico’s human rights ombudsman Raúl Plascencia Villanueva ordered his officials to visit the crime scene to analyze what happened and conduct their own investigation.

According to the CNDH, 87 journalists or media workers have been killed as a result of their work since 2000. In 2013 two reporters were murdered in Mexico, according to organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

This post was translated by human rights investigator and journalist Patrick Timmons, editor of the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons

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