July 10, 2008

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec
C.P. 11850
México D.F.
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901

Lic. Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza
Procurador General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuauhtémoc
C.P. 06500
México D.F.
Fax: + 52 55 53 46 0908

Lic. Octavio Alberto Orellana Wiarco
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas
Procuradoría General de la República
Av. Paseo de la Reforma #211-213
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Del. Cuauhtémoc
C.P. 06500,
D.F., México
Fax: +52 55 53 46 09 08

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest the two-month detention of journalist Jesús Lemus Barajas.

According to our information, Mr. Lemus Barajas, journalist and director of the daily newspaper El Tiempo, based in La Piedad, Michoacán state, was arrested along with two of his sources in Cuerámaro, in the neighboring state of Guanajuato, while investigating drug trafficking in the region on May 7, 2008. Mr. Lemus Barajas has been accused of involvement in the drug trade for “The Family,” an offshoot of the powerful Gulf cartel. He was detained incommunicado for 48 hours by the Guanajuato state ministerial police, who interrogated and beat him and confiscated his personal belongings. On May 9, Mr. Lemus Barajas and the two other men were transferred to Puentecilla prison in Guanajuato, where the federal public ministry took over the case. On May 27, he was transferred to a high-security federal prison in Puente Grande, in the neighboring state of Jalisco.

This is not the first time Jesús Lemus Barajas and El Tiempo have been subject to harassment by the authorities this year. In March, Mr. Barajas exposed harassment of the media by the mayor of La Piedad, which led to the detention of two El Tiempo reporters, José Antonio Chavolla Barragán and Alicia López Barajas, on charges of “incitement to rebellion.” He has also been critical of police intimidation of El Tiempo news vendors.

PEN American Center is extremely concerned for the well-being of Jesús Lemus Barajas, and fears that his two-month imprisonment on drug-trafficking charges is in fact related to his journalistic work in direct violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Mexico is a signatory. We therefore respectfully call for authorities to provide substantive evidence to back up the charges against Mr. Lemus Barajas or, if they are unable to do so, to release him immediately and unconditionally.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan
Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20006

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