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Media advertising campaign targets violence against journalists

December 3, 2008 |  8:36 am

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A television, radio and print advertising campaign called "What you don’t know can hurt you ("Te hace daño no saber" in Spanish)" is to launch here in Mexico in an attempt by press freedom groups to raise public awareness about violence against journalists and to demand more action from the government of President Felipe Calderon.

At a candlelit presentation Tuesday night in the Interactive Economy Museum in downtown Mexico City, domestic and international organizations announced the campaign to an audience of several hundred people. They hope to bring an end to what they claim is impunity for those who commit crimes against journalists in Mexico.

Since 2000, 28 journalists have been killed in Mexico and eight have disappeared, according to Article 19, one of the organizations sponsoring the advertising campaign. Mexico's National Human Rights Commission says the figure is actually higher and that 45 journalists have been killed in the same  period. Mexico is the deadliest country in the Americas for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders, and reporters who cover organized crime are especially at risk.

In recent weeks, Miguel Angel Villagomez Valle, editor of the newspaper La Noticia, was killed in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state. Also killed were David Garcia Monroy, columnist for El Diario, in Chihuahua, and reporter Jose Armando Rodriguez Carreon, also of El Diario, in Ciudad Juarez.

"The response of the Mexican state in all of these cases has been the same -- immunity for those behind the crimes," said Brisa Solis, executive director of the National Center of Social Communication (CENCOS), another of the groups supporting the campaign.

Expressing solidarity were several Mexican journalists, including Lydia Cacho, who has become a symbol  of the persecution of journalists here in Mexico.

Cacho says that she was arrested illegally, taken to the end of a pier and told to jump by state police from Puebla after she published a book alleging the existence of a pedophile ring in Cancun in 2005. Her case against her alleged aggressors went all the way to Mexico's Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled, controversially, that although there was evidence of crimes against Cacho, her rights weren't violated enough to warrant further action.

"The defense of our reporters is a vital factor in the guarantee of our access to information, and to make decisions in a free, autonomous way,” Cacho said during last night's event.

The first phase of the campaign -- which opens in the media today -- will be aimed at raising awareness, and the second phase will take more of an advocacy approach. The campaign is being supported by a number of press freedom nonprofits: The Global Latin America Community Radio Assn. (AMARC), the Mexican Assn. for the Right to Information (AMEDI), Women's Communication and Information (CIMAC), Fundacion Manuel Buendia, the Institute for Security and Democracy (INSYDE), Reporters Without Borders, The National Journalism Prize, the Mexican Press and Democracy Foundation (PRENDE), Universidad Iberoamericana, the Rory Peck Trust and the National Press Editors Assn. It is being funded by CENCOS and Article 19. 

TV spots for the campaign show the names of journalists who have been killed or disappeared in Mexico. The names appear over a white background, until they eventually obliterate all of the white.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Photo: One of the campaign ads, which asks: "If they're not there, who is going to inform us?" Credit: Article 19.

*Edited Dec 5th, 2008, 9:35a.m Mexico City time. The campaign is being supported, but not funded, by a range of non-profits. It is being funded by Article 19 and Cencos.

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