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500 intellectuals ask President Peña Nieto to investigate the murders of journalists in Mexico

17/08/2015
11:35
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The letter was signed by personalities such as Noam Chomsky, Christiane Amanpour, Jon Lee Anderson, Paul Auster, Salman Rushdie and John Maxwell Coetzee.

By Giselle Rodríguez

Over 500 intellectuals, journalists and artists wrote to President Enrique Peña Nieto to ask him to investigate the murder of photojournalist Rubén Espinosa and four other people in Mexico City on July 30 and to establish mechanisms to protect the lives of journalists.

Espinosa arrived in Mexico City in June after fleeing threats in Veracruz, where he worked for the investigative magazine Proceso and campaigned for free expression.

The letter, published on the website of PEN American Center, was signed by personalities such as American philosopher Noam Chomsky, British-Iranian journalist Christiane Amanpour, American journalist Jon Lee Anderson and writers such as Paul Auster, Salman Rushdie and John Maxwell Coetzee.

"We the undersigned, as journalists, writers, creative artists, and free expression advocates from around the world, and with the support of PEN and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), would like to express our indignation regarding the deadly attacks against reporters in your country. An attempt on the life of a journalist is an attack on society’s very right to be informed," the letter says in its opening.

"This is only the latest in a long series of outrages against the press, and it took place in a city that was considered one of the last safe places in the country for reporters to work. There would now seem to be no safe haven for the profession," it adds.

Mexican journalists such as Homero Aridjis, Alejandra Xanic, Denise Dresser and Lydia Cacho, academics such as Sergio Aguayo and Lorenzo Meyer, filmmakers such as Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro and artists such as Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna also signed the letter, that states that "since 2000, dozens of journalists have been killed in Mexico, and approximately 20 more remain disappeared. The great majority of these crimes have never been prosecuted. According to the Mexican Human Rights Commission, there is evidence that points to the involvement of government officials in many of the attacks against journalists and media outlets. The widespread and extreme physical threats faced by reporters in Mexico have drawn the attention of many concerned with international freedom of expression and press freedom."

It adds that "since the current governor of Veracruz took power in 2010, journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed in unprecedented numbers: 14 have been murdered in atrocious fashion, and three have disappeared in the same time period. In each of these cases local justice has dismissed the victim’s profession as probable cause."

So far, 37 of Rubén Espinosa’s colleagues in Veracruz have left their jobs, their homes, and their families and fled to Mexico City after receiving threats.

In a harsh criticism to Mexico's government, the signatories said that "Mexican reporters in particular are in deadly peril. Organized crime, corrupt government officials, and a justice system incapable of prosecuting criminals all contribute to reporters’ extreme vulnerability."

"The gruesome murder of Rubén Espinosa and four others in Mexico City—one of the only remaining ‘safe zones’ for journalists in the country—demonstrates that a decades-long trend of violence against writers and impunity for perpetrators is accelerating, despite new measures to curb it," said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression Programs at PEN American Center.

"The international community must increase pressure on Mexico to turn its ‘protection’ rhetoric into reality and to allocate the necessary resources to end ‘censorship by bullet’ and the sprawling corruption that feeds it," he added.

In January, a report by Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights revealed that 97 journalists had been killed in Mexico in connection with their work since 2010.

 

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