Protection of journalists in Baja program

November 26, 2001|By ARTURO BOJORQUEZ, Staff Writer

MEXICALI — Journalists working in Baja California, both locals and those from other parts of the country and world, will be protected by a new program.

It is called the State Program of Journalists and Media Protection.

Enforced by the Manuel Buendía Foundation, the Mexican Academy of Human Rights and the National Union of Press Writers, the program will help every person working in media with his or her personal safety.

Cases like the assassination of Benjamin Flores in San Luis, Sonora, on July 15 1997, the attempted murder of Zeta weekly newspaper co-director Jesus Blancornelas, the threatening of the director of Mexicali weekly newspaper Sietedías, Sergio Haro, and the shooting of reporters Ernesto Alvarez and Gonzalo Gonzalez from the Tijuana daily Frontera by Claudio Ruffo, brother of former Gov. Ernesto Ruffo, are among the cases in recent years.

"Authorities have brought no attention to citizens' claims to clear these cases and to punish the ones responsible to quiet journalists," said a report from the human rights office.


Everyone from reporters to owners and media managers will be protected by the program.

"We consider all of them entered into this program because we cannot say in Mexico journalists' human rights are respected yet and third-party sources of threats are appearing more and more in the country," Raul Ramírez Baena said.

Ramirez, Baja California's human rights ombudsman, said in recent cases organized criminal bands have been involved.

Starting today, journalists can present their complaints to all six human rights offices in the state, either by fax, e-mail, phone or personally.

The complaints will be delivered to another office, which will do investigations into the cases.

"The challenge will be to promote this project among communicators, as they can have trust in the office to present their complaints," he said.

The ombudsman's office will address any threats committed by authorities, and in the case of third-party threats, it will only help journalists with legal advice.

"Also if the authorities commit omissions in the investigations, we can help journalists," he said.

Unfortunately journalists who regularly report on human rights abuses don't present complaints of abuse against themselves, Ramirez said.

Ramirez said that in cases of labor issues, the ombudsman's office cannot intervene.

"But we can bring some advice," Ramirez said.

Cases to be investigated include kidnapping, censorship, intimidation, stories being held by editors or managers, blocking journalistic work, firing, lawsuits, apprehension, stealing and wrongful editing.

Also subject to the complaints are media owners, former public officials, police departments, political groups, individuals, drug smugglers and others.

The project is still open for comment and journalists can make recommendations to improve it.

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