September 28, 2011

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, DISTRITO FEDERAL, México
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
Lic. Marisela Morales Ibáñez
Procuradora 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
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión (FEADLE)

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to defending freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our shock regarding the murder of yet another journalist, María Elizabeth Macías Castro, and the disappearance of journalist Gabriel Manuel Fonseca Hernández.

According to our information, María Elizabeth Macías Castro, blogger and editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Primera Hora, was found decapitated in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, on September 24, 2011. A note found with her body accused her of denouncing drug violence on social networks and web sites such as Nuevo Laredo en Vivo, where members of the public can inform the police of locations where gangs congregate and sell drugs. The note reportedly made reference to the pen name Macías used to blog, “La Nena de Nuevo Laredo,” and was signed with the letter “Z,” usually associated with the Zetas cartel. A similar note was found near the bodies of two people discovered hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo on September 13.

Gabriel Manuel Fonseca Hernández, police reporter for the newspaper El Mañanero, based in the municipality of Acayucan, southern Veracruz state, was last seen when he went to the paper’s offices to collect his wages on September 19, 2011. Witnesses claim to have seen him in Acayucan later that afternoon but he did not return home that night and has not responded to calls to his mobile phone. His father reported him missing to the authorities on September 21. Fonseca, who previously worked for the newspapers El Diario de Acayucan and La Verdad de Jáltipan, covered the police beat for El Mañanero, but according to the paper’s director, he did not report on matters directly related to organized crime. El Mañanero is reportedly owned by the mayor of Oluta municipality.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, 43 print journalists and two writers have been murdered, and 11 print journalists have gone missing. Macías is the ninth print journalist murdered in Mexico this year, and the third female journalist to be killed, after Yolanda Ordaz De La Cruz (July 14, 2011) and Ana María Marcela Yarce (September 1, 2011). Fonseca is the second print journalist to have disappeared in Mexico this year, after editor Marco Antonio López Ortiz was kidnapped on June 7, 2011. Four journalists have been killed in Veracruz state alone this year, including the print journalists Noel López Olguin (abducted March 8, 2011, found June 1), Miguel Ángel López Velasco (June 20) and Yolanda Ordaz De La Cruz (July 24).

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that the murder of María Elizabeth Macías Castro and the disappearance of Gabriel Manuel Fonseca Hernández are a result of an ongoing and very troubling climate of impunity in Mexico. We therefore call for the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression to conduct a full and impartial investigation into Macías’s murder and Fonseca’s disappearance, focusing on their journalistic work as a possible motive, as well as into all other unsolved journalist murders and disappearances in Mexico. We also reiterate our call for the government of President Felipe Calderón to fulfill promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offense by amending the constitution so that federal authorities have the power to investigate, prosecute, and punish such crimes, and for federal authorities to immediately implement the journalist protection mechanisms it promised in November 2010.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

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

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