July 6, 2010

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec
México D.F. C.P. 11850
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376

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

Dr Gustavo Salas Chávez
Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas
Email: feadp@pgr.gob.mx

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our horror over the fatal shooting of journalists Juan Francisco Rodríguez Ríos and María Elvira Hernández Galena in Coyuca de Benítez, Guerrero state.

According to our information, husband-and-wife journalists Juan Francisco Rodríguez Ríos, aged 49, and María Elvira Hernández Galena, aged 36, were shot dead in the Internet café they owned near their home in Coyuca de Benítez, Guerrero state, on June 28, 2010. They were reportedly shot at close range by two unidentified gunmen who drove up to the café. The couple is survived by their two children, aged 17 and eight; the younger child witnessed the shooting but was not injured. The Guerrero state prosecutor’s office began an investigation on June 29. To date the motive for the crime is not known.

Rodríguez was the local correspondent for two daily newspapers, El Sol de Acapulco and Diario Objetivo, while Hernández edited the weekly paper Semanario Nueva Línea. Rodríguez had been a journalist in the Costa Grande region, north of Acapulco, for 20 years, and had provided general coverage of the region for El Sol de Acapulco for the past five years. He was also secretary general of the local branch of the National Union of Press Reporters (SNRP) in Coyuca de Benítez as well as a member of the technical committee of the Guerrero state Support Fund for Journalists.
A few days before the shooting, Rodríguez reportedly took part in an annual convention for Guerrero state journalists in Coyuca de Benítez, during which concern was voiced about growing violence against journalists in Mexico. Their death brings the number of print journalists killed in Guerrero in 2010 to four and the total for Mexico to seven; three more print journalists have gone missing in Mexico this year.

PEN American Center remains seriously concerned that the climate of impunity for those who attack and kill journalists in Guerrero and elsewhere in Mexico is contributing to the increasing violence and helped precipitate the murders of Juan Francisco Rodríguez Ríos and María Elvira Hernández Galena. We therefore call on the federal and state authorities to carry out a full and impartial investigation into their murders as a matter of utmost urgency, with the involvement of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists, and investigate all other unsolved journalist killings and disappearances in Mexico. We also urge the government of President Felipe Calderón to fulfill promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offense, specifically by amending the constitution so that federal authorities have the power to investigate, prosecute and punish such crimes, and to set up protection programs for journalists to ensure their safety.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                                                
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee                                   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Mr. Arturo Sarukhan
Mexican Ambassador to the United States
Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20006
Fax: (202) 728-1698

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