Exiled Mexican journalist speaks out

Frontera NorteSur

For seven years, Rosa Isela Perez wrote about the systematic disappearance
and murder of women for the Ciudad Juarez daily Norte. Today she lives
with her husband and three children in Spanish exile. Probing deep into
the putrid underbelly of the crimes, Perez received threats. Worried about
the safety of her loved ones, Perez made a quick decision one day in 2009
and hightailed it out of the border city in less than 24 hours.

“If you denounce or investigate human rights violations you are dead,” the
former Ciudad Juarez reporter told a correspondent in Spain.

In the interview, Perez blamed Norte’s  management for buckling under
pressure from former Chihuahua Governor Jose Reyes Baeza (2004-2010), who
according to Perez, asked for “her head” and got it.

“Most of the local media joined in a campaign launched by the municipal
government to clean up the city’s image by saying there were no crimes
against women, that the femicides were a myth,” Perez added.

Nowadays, Perez is among several journalists from Ciudad Juarez and the
state of Chihuahua who have fled abroad amid reported threats against
their lives. Even as Perez spoke out, a new wave of attacks has the
journalistic profession in Mexico once again on edge.

This month alone, Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, a well-known columnist in
Veracruz, was murdered together with his wife and his son. In Acapulco,
local journalists have staged numerous demonstrations demanding the safe
return of Marco Antonio Lopez, the informational chief for the city’s
Novedades daily.  The 45-year-old Lopez was reported kidnapped in
Acapulco’s downtown on June 7.

In Mexico, a “national crisis” persists around the issue of security for
journalists, said Carlos Lauria, Americas coordinator for the New
York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists. The problem,
Lauria contended in a Washington debate last week, goes beyond the
conditions journalists themselves confront every day.

Threats against communicators, Lauria said, jeopardize basic human rights
of freedom of expression and access to information as guaranteed by the
Mexican Constitution. “Political stability is going to depend on the
capacity the press has to work in freedom,” Lauria insisted.

Also addressing the same event attended by Lauria, a representative of the
Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) charged that the
Mexican government still not had done enough to protect journalists.

“Mexico does not have the luxury of continuing to fail in terms of
protection.” said the IACHR’s Catalina Botero.

In Rosa Isela Perez’s case, the Ciudad Juarez journalist got help from
Spanish lawyers who assisted her in obtaining asylum in their country.
Last year, Perez was awarded a media prize by Spain’s bar association for
her stories that shed light on “multiple irregularities” in femicide
investigations while exposing links between “the crimes, the authorities,
important businessmen and organized crime,” according to the Spanish
lawyers’ organization.

Eventually, Perez offered testimony in the historic femicide case heard by
the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica. In late 2009, the
Inter-American Court ruled that the Mexican state was responsible for
permitting a climate of impunity and gender violence that preceded the
murders of the three young victims considered in the case, and that the
government did not properly investigate the slayings or hold the
responsible law enforcement authorities accountable.

Sources: El Universal, June 27, 2011. Article by Ana Anabitarte. La
Jornada (Guerrero Edition), June 26, 2011. Article by Hector Briseno.  El
Sur, June 26, 2011. Article by Daniel Velazquez. La Jornada/AFP, June 21,
2011. Cpj.org

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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