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Unknown men break into press freedom advocate’s home in Mexico, steal computers and documents

The home of Article 19's director in Mexico was broken into on March 16. Photo via Article 19.

On Sunday, March 16, unknown suspects broke into the Mexico City house of Darío Ramírez, regional director of the freedom of expression organization Article 19. They took his work documents and computers, according to the news site Animal Político.

This was the second aggression in Mexico against a representative of an international press freedom organization in less than a week.

The crime occurred two days before Article 19 presents its annual report on violence against journalists and the news media.

Ramírez and his family were vacationing when the break-in occurred. They arrived on Sunday to find their doors forced open. Those responsible did not leave any messages but they were “very specific in what they took: work equipment, computer and small valuables,” Ramírez said.

In an alert published on their site, Article 19 clarified they could not confirm the crime was connected to Ramírez’s work but said the matter was still a source of “great concern” when taking into consideration the harassment and aggressions faced by journalists and defenders of human rights in Mexico.

The organization said the break-in was the fifth security incident their employees have faced since April 2013, when Ramírez and other people in Article 19 received a death threat. None of these have been investigated up until now.

Article 19 filed complaints over the incident with Mexico City’s prosecutor’s office and the Mexican government’s Protection Mechanism for Journalists.  Ramírez said they have yet to receive any response from the country's Protection Mechanism, which he described “quite inefficient.”

Despite these events, the public presentation of Article 19's annual report, titled "Dissenting in Silence: violence against the press and criminalization of protests, Mexico 2013," will still take place. However, considering that the break-in could have been meant as an "intimidating message," the organization alerted the authorities about "possible events which could occur as a result of presenting the report."

Second aggression in a week

Balbina Flores. Photo via OEA.

Last Wednesday, March 12, the freedom of information organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounced the telephone threats directed at their correspondent in Mexico, Balbina Flores Martínez, who reports on aggressions against journalists.

According to RSF, Flores received three threatening calls on March 12 from someone with a male voice who asked to speak with her. The man identified himself as “Commander Omar Treviño” – the name of the supposed leader of the Zetas cartel – and said he was close by and had been paid to hurt her. After receiving the three calls, Flores reported the threats to the Special Attorney’s office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) and the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico D.F., reported GrupoFormula.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA/SIP), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Article 19 recently joined RSF in repudiating the threats against Flores. The organizations asked that the Mexican government grant immediate protection to Flores.

"Mexican authorities must launch a timely and thorough inquiry into this threat and bring those responsible to justice," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s Senior Americas Program Coordinator. "In a country where violence and censorship have devastated the press, authorities must guarantee that press freedom advocates can work without fear for their safety."

Impunity in Mexico continues being a problem and a primary concern for journalists working in the country. According to CPJ, impunity and insecurity in Mexico has made it one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.

*Kendall Ivie contributed to this post. Ivie is a student in the class “Journalism in the Americas” at the University of Texas at Austin.

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