June 3, 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, 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
Tel: + 52 55 5346 0108
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 concern over the disappearance of journalist Evaristo Ortega Zárate in Colipa, Veracruz state.

According to our information, Evaristo Ortega Zárate, editor of the local newspaper Espacio, has been missing since April 20, 2010. According to Ortega’s sister, she received several SMS messages from him that day saying that he had been arrested by police in the state capital of Xalapa. She called him and he asked her to inform the authorities and media before they got cut off. He has not been heard from since. According to the Veracruz Commission for the Defense of Journalists, the state attorney general’s office took more than 24 hours to open an investigation into his disappearance.

Ortega, who reportedly intended to run for mayor of Colipa as a candidate of the National Action Party (PAN), was last seen in a PAN branch office 10 minutes before he sent the first of the messages to his sister. Another PAN member who wanted to be the party’s mayoral candidate in Colipa, Francisco Mota Uribe, reportedly disappeared around the same time.

Ortega is the third print journalist to disappear this year. On April 6, 2010, Ramón Ángeles Zalpa of Cambio de Michoacán, based in Michoacán state, disappeared after receiving anonymous phone calls, while Miguel Ángel Domínguez Zamora of Mañana, in Tamaulipas state, has been missing since March 1.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that the disappearance of Evarista Ortega Zárate is a result of a very troubling climate of impunity in Veracruz and elsewhere in Mexico. We therefore call on the federal and state authorities to investigate Ortega’s disappearance as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to investigate all other such unsolved crimes against journalists 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, to and 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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