Juárez police chief Julián Leyzaola
Rio Grande Digital
A leading international organization that defends press freedom has called Juárez Police Chief Julián Leyzaola “the enemy of the press” in a blog published on Thursday by the Mexico City newspaper El Universal.
The organization Article 19 cites numerous city police attacks on journalists since Leyzaola took control of the Juárez police department last year. It points the blame directly at Leyzaola and Juárez Mayor Hector “Teto” Murguia, who appointed the chief and has defended him, saying last week that Leyzaola will still be on the job when the mayor leaves office.
Juárez has been gripped by a public security crisis since January 2008. About 10,000 people have died violent — often brutally violent — deaths in the city, a result of Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon’s US-backed “war on drugs.”
Article 19 cites two high-profile deaths of journalists in the city: the 2008 shooting death of El Diario de Juárez crime reporter Armando Rodriguez and, two years later, photographer Luis Carlos Santiago, also an employee of El Diario.
At least eight journalists in the city fled and sought refuge abroad, the organization says. Citing an investigation by El Diario, the organization says that in the last nine months, “at least 12 journalists have been subjected to physical assaults, threats and arbitrary arrests and illegal while covering the activities of the municipal police.”
“Both the Juárez Journalists Network and the Association of Journalists of Ciudad Juárez, have publicly denounced the situation and demanded security guarantees necessary for coverage of police activities. But city officials, including municipal police commanders have responded as usual to the protests of the press, simply ignoring them. While the protection of journalists has been an issue on the agenda of the political class Chihuahua ( especially at election time), has only resulted in a dangerous simulation of the authorities.”
“In August last year, the state government announced the launch of a comprehensive security system for journalists. Little is known of the results due to the lack of transparency from the participating institutions, but there are cases that account for its ineffectiveness.
“Meanwhile, the federal program “We are all Juárez,” which aims to address the most pressing problems of the community does not include a single line of action to reverse the vulnerability of journalists and communicators. In addition to the structural causes impeding the free flow of information in Ciudad Juárez, there are others originating in the authoritarian inclinations of officials in charge of institutions that should promote and protect press freedom. This is the case of the current Secretary of Public Security of Ciudad Juárez, retired Lt. Col. Julian Leyzaola Perez.”
The blog notes that Leyzaola, former police chief in the Baja California border city of Tijuana stands accused of human rights
Juárez Hector "Teto" Murguia
abuses there. In December, he was accused — along with seven other police officers — of beating to death a person in their custody.
The organization also notes that Leyzaola has not had an easy task in Juarez. Thirty-seven police officers of various jurisdictions have been murdered in the city. Spray-painted messages — allegedly from criminal groups — have appeared around the city threatening Leyzaola himself with violence. However, it notes, those things do not justify any alleged abuse of authority.
“Security is unattainable except through strict respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. Secretary Leyzaola and Mayor Murguia are responsible for each of the 12 attacks against the press in Ciudad Juarez. They are responsible for not punishing those responsible and ensuring that such reprehensible acts never happen again. If the Secretary Leyzaola not take action on the matter and allows his staff to continue harassing and threatening the press, he will reduce the legitimacy and moral authority of his office to the same level as that of ‘the filthy’ he seeks to defeat.”