Home Page > News Item > MEXICO:Three journalists receive death threats in Oaxaca; fears for safety following murder of colleagues

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN protests the death threats received by El Imparcial del Istmo director Gonzalo Dominguez Monroy and two of his reporters, Felipe Ramos Cruz and Carlos Dominguez Monroy. The threats, which appear to relate to the newspaper’s coverage of the activities of a drug trafficking group in the state of Oaxaca over the last six months, have intensified over the last month. The fatal shooting of three of the newspaper’s employees on 8 October 2007 has led to serious concern for the journalists’ safety. International PEN is calling on the authorities to carry out a full investigation into the death threats and killings and to safeguard the right to liberty, security and freedom of expression for these and other journalists in Oaxaca.

The following is a press release issued by Amnesty International on 11 October 2007 (see http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR410342007?open&of=ENG-MEX). PEN members are asked to send appeals following the guidance given in the alert as a matter of urgency.

Amnesty International Urgent Action – AMR 41/034/2007 – UA 260/07

11 October 2007

Fear for safety / Death threats: Gonzalo Dominguez Monroy (m), Felipe Ramos Cruz (m), Carlos Dominguez Monroy (m) (journalists), and others working for El Imparcial del Istmo newspaper in Oaxaca

Killed: Mateo Cortés Martínez (m), press worker, Flor Vásquez López (f), press worker, Agustín López Nolasco (m), press worker

Journalists for El Imparcial del Istmo, a regional newspaper based in Salina Cruz, in eastern Oaxaca state, have been receiving death threats, apparently as a result of the newspaper’s coverage of a drug-trafficking gang’s activities in the state. After three of their colleagues were shot dead earlier this week, Amnesty International is deeply concerned for the safety of other workers at the same newspaper.

Shortly after 1pm on 8 October, employees of El Imparcial del Istmo, van driver Mateo Cortés Martínez and delivery and sale workers Flor Vásquez López and Agustín López Nolasco, had just collected a batch of newspapers from the city of Tehuantepec and were travelling in a van identifiable by the newspaper’s logo. They were intercepted by a group of men armed with high calibre guns in a SUV vehicle with tinted windows. The three press workers were shot repeatedly at close range. The attack is believed to be in retaliation for the newspaper’s coverage of executions and abductions reportedly carried out by the Mexican drug trafficking gang, Los Zetas.

Shortly after the murders, newspaper director Gonzalo Dominguez Monroy, and reporters Felipe Ramos Cruz and Carlos Dominguez Monroy reportedly received anonymous telephone death threats. A male voice told Gonzalo Dominguez Monroy “we warn you, you’re next” (te lo advertimos, el proximo eres tu). His colleagues received similar calls.

They and other press workers at the same newspaper had reportedly been receiving death threats by phone, email and letter since they started publishing news on criminal activities attributed to drug-related organised crime six months ago. The death threats have reportedly intensified over the last month.

The escalation of attacks against journalists in the last two years has turned Mexico into one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. The majority of the most serious attacks are attributed to organized crime networks seeking to silence reporting on violence and corruption. Media workers have suffered attacks and threats, including in Oaxaca state, see UA 227/06, AMR 41/050/2006, 31 October August 2006, UA 151/07, AMR 41/026/2007, 15 June 2007, and UA 208/07, 9 August 2007.

The federal authorities established the Office of Special Prosecutor on Crimes against Journalists (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas) in February 2006 to improve investigation of such cases. However, the Special Prosecutor does not have jurisdiction to investigate directly in the majority of cases. Of the 100 case files opened there has not reportedly been a single successful prosecution of the perpetrators. The almost total impunity for crimes against media workers means that journalists are working in an increasingly dangerous climate with ever greater pressure not to report on potentially dangerous issues. Amnesty International has called for the powers of the Special Prosecutor on Crimes against Journalists to be extended in order to investigate these crimes directly.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Spanish or your own language:
– expressing concern at the murder of press workers Mateo Cortés Martínez, Flor Vásquez López and Agustín López Nolasco on 8 October 2007 near Tehuantepec;
– expressing concern that their colleagues Gonzalo Dominguez Monroy, and reporters Felipe Ramos Cruz and Carlos Dominguez Monroy, as well as other workers at El Imparcial del Istmo, have received death threats;
– calling on the authorities to ensure that Gonzalo Dominguez Monroy, Felipe Ramos Cruz and Carlos Dominguez Monroy receive protection measures to guarantee their safety in accordance with their wishes;
– calling for a full, prompt and impartial investigation by the federal authorities, such as the Special Prosecutor on Crimes against Journalists, into the killing of Mateo Cortés Martínez, Flor Vásquez López and Agustín López Nolasco and death threats against Gonzalo Dominguez Monroy, Felipe Ramos Cruz and Carlos Dominguez Monroy;
– reminding the authorities of their duty to ensure those responsible for attacks on media workers are held to account in order to prevent future attacks and create a climate in which journalists can exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear of reprisal.

Special Federal Prosecutor on Crimes against Journalists
Lic. Octavio Alberto Orellana Wiarco
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas
Procuradoría General de la República
Av. Paseo de la Reforma #211-213
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Del. Cuauhtémoc, C.P. 06500, México D.F., MEXICO
Fax: +52 55 53 46 09 08
Salutation: Dear Sir/Señor Fiscal Especial

Governor of Oaxaca
Lic. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz
Gobernador del Estado de Oaxaca
Carretera Oaxaca-Puerto Angel, Km. 9.5, Santa María Coyotepec, Oaxaca, Oaxaca C. P. 71254, MEXIC
Fax: +52 951 502 0530 (if a voice answers, ask “tono de fax, por favor”)
E-mail: gobernador@oaxaca.gob.mx
Salutation: Señor Gobernador/Dear Governor

Attorney General of Oaxaca
Lic. Evencio Nicolás Martínez Ramírez
Procurador del Estado de Oaxaca
Avenida Luis Echeverría s/n, Col. La Experimental, San Antonio de la Cal, Oaxaca, Oaxaca 71236, MEXICO
Fax: +52 951 511 5519
Salutation: Dear Attorney General/Estimado Procurador

President of the National Human Rights Commission
Dr. José Luis Soberanes Fernández
Presidente de la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH)
Periférico Sur 3469, 5º piso, Col. San Jerónimo Lídice, México D.F. 10200, MEXICO

and to diplomatic representatives of Mexico accredited to your country.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with International PEN if sending appeals after 18 September 2007.***

For further details please contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: International PEN, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email: tamsin.mitchell@internationalpen.org.uk
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